Tuesday, May 31, 2005

This EU vote thing is ironic.

Back in the day (<------ to use a formal historical term) the U.S. chunked the Articles of Confederation because the Federalism led to too much power in the hands of the states, and (if I recall) an inability for the Federal Government to raise and army or $$. We eventually voted in the Constitution, which cements the Federal/State relationship fairly substantially. The Europeans have just chunked their Constitution and now will probably end up ratifying (some year) a weaker, less-federalizing document. I'm not sure which side I agree with at the moment, but one thing is clear: that vote this weekend by the French doomed an effort that would have had a momentus, huge, stupendously influential impact on the future of Europe. The lack of that transformation makes the vote probably one of the most important (if esoteric) political developments...ever. I don't think I'm exaggerating that. My weekend: 1. Traded my trusty old (new) bass for a new (old) bass. The new one is an absolute beast: its a fretless, 15 lb. hardwood Ibanez monstrosity from 1979. I sold one of my deceased grandfather's canon camera's and used the proceeds to make up the difference. He loved photography, I love playing music. I'm converting his hobbies into my own.

2. Videotaped a wedding with Butchie. That was fun. I'm new at using a fancy camera, but he is a patient mentor so soon enough I'll be a pro.

3. Jammed with B.C., then went out and made up a frisbee golf course in the parklands behind my house.

4. Quit my job. My last day will be next Tuesday. School will start for me in June: a full, intense year of education courses. The course schedule looks grueling and wholly uninspiring. Education classes are just plain lame. Ah well.

Today I get to go home and find out if my sister-in-law will be having a boy or a girl (or something else entirely).

Maybe she'll have a radiator.

Or a top hat.

Or an oragami crane.

Or a basket of lox.

Or five warm tortillas.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Had a good, if slightly bittersweet, night last night.
Got about 3 hours of sleep.
Am at work now.
Went up to Baltimore with B.C. to see a band play.
Its a weeknight, and I usually don't go out on weeknights.
Who am I kidding? I rarely go out on weekends, either.
I'm a home-body. I like my stuff, my hobbies, my space.
I don't dig hassling traffic, paying cover charges, drinking $4 beers.

I have mixed feelings about live music: on the one hand, it is fun to see a band live, in the flesh, with everything hanging out. If they are good, and can pull it off, I enjoy myself. If not, I don't. I'm one of the rare people who prefer to listen to well-produced CDs to live, raw music (because usually CD quality is better.)

The band I went to see last night is better live by a wide margin.

They are (or were) Continuous Play -- a power trio out of College Park with a sound (and skill level) not unlike Weezer, the Shins & Phish (complex, jazzy rock that occasionally explodes into meteoric jam). The lyrics are great, the vocals are pretty good, and their craft is well-honed.
To top it off, in true geek-rock form, the three players are completely without pretense.
Last night was their last show.

Injured feelings and mounting pressure to "make it" ripped them apart.

The sad part was that they were starting to hit it pretty big. They'd been touring the East Coast and had finally gotten a gig at the Funk Box in Baltimore -- a pretty good venue. They were opening for the "Black Eyed Peas" (who, incidentally, had *nothing* on C.P.)

Anyway, their bass player wasn't with them so they had a guest player who filled in very nicely, the show rocked, then it ended, then we all went onto the roof of a rowhouse to, er, gaze at the heavens. I ended up looking at someone's cat pictures on her camera. We were all standing around talking and people were trying to be upbeat, but its hard to remain optimistic when a band that everybody loved had just played its last show.

I never followed Continuous Play much, because I'm a homebody (see above), but I ended up explaining to the cat girl that, yes, the band *was* talented enough to make it big, but talent isn't what makes bands rich and famous. Luck and talent -- along with other intangibles -- makes bands big. Continuous Play was one of the best live acts out there, and they could go head to head with anybody, but the people who had followed them needed the reassurance to know that the band was somehow important, or substantial, or [could have been] good enough.

"It seems like the last 10 years have been a waste," the lead guitarist/songwriter lamented.

Recognizing that I am hardly in a position to judge, I still felt that this sentiment was unfair. All bands, no matter how great, have an arc of fame -- a temporary, luminescent rainbow that shines as long as it can, then fades away. The important thing -- the *really* important thing about that curve is the good times that came with it -- all those nights of beauty and forgetting. No band should be judged upon whether they "make it." Corporate success is a shabby and corrupt yardstick to measure soundmaking by. Fame and money are really just ends to enable musicians to spend more time honing their craft. And making music is, at its core, always ephemeral.

So good luck to the members of Continuous Play. Rumor has it that a few of them will drift to California to try to find worthy musicians for a new project. May they find success again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I saw "Revenge of the Sith" this weekend.
Spoiler alert: the Sith won.
I am defeated.
The galaxy is theirs.
I concede.
If nobody minds, I'm going to quietly sneak away into Douglass Adams' universe where even if the dialogue sounds like it was [mis]adapted from a bad Nicholas Sparks novel using a cereal-box decodor ring, at least there are leather goddesses.

Before I begin my small, incomplete, and woefully underdeveloped review of the "film", I direct you to several other blog reviews on sites linked to mine: Coral Calcium, This Bird Has Flown, and Glassmaze, to name a few. They adequately chart the results of this misguided venture into the Abyss:
Just exactly which abyss am I talking about here?
Darth Vaders dark, succeptable heart?
No: the bottle.
Something cheap, plentiful, and hard-hitting.
I need some to cleanse my sullied lobes. (Come hither, sweet oblivion.)

For me it wasn't just one thing about the movie. It wasn't just the obligatory lava-world fight where they ski around on floating hunks of rock inches above a molten, pyroclastic display that would have left Mt. Doom rumbling with jealousy.

It wasn't just the fact that being anywhere *near* that amount of hot lava would have instantly asphyxiated every single person and reduced the 10 minute swordfight into a 15 second commercial for bacon.

It wasn't just that Lucas felt compelled to show us a fleeting glimpse of Jar Jar Binks (as if to say "I know this abominable, bug-eyed, wannabe rastafarian toady sucked worse than a Saarlac with an elbow straw, but I *made* him and therefore you will have to suffer seeing him one more time just for the sake of continuity.")

...or that Lucas made some idiotic, pointless, rediculous reference to Obi Wan's dead master Qui-Gon at the very end of the flick (BAD EDITOR, NO COOKIE.)

...or that every single lightsaber fight ended up with someone's arms, legs or hands being lopped off, or that laser bursts were dispatched with such offhanded effortlessness by lightsaber-wielding Jedis that one wonders why EVERYONE didn't give up on guns altogether. (Except for the evil droids who, although perfectly capable of using laser weapons, clearly preferred to fight hand-to-hand armed with nothing but glorified cattle prods with lava lamps on each end.)

Nor was it that that Vader went from misunderstood idealist upstart to cold-blooded child-murderer only for the sake of finding some sort of New Age miracle cure for death.

...or that his big "transformation" happened quicker and with less realism than an Ewok felling an imperial AT-ST walker with a slingshot.

Nor was it that the anticipated "darkness" of the film was less a product of well-fabricated noir than just poor set lighting (interspersed with frequent gazing at setting suns).

Nor was it the continual overuse of computerized graphics to generate a disbelievable cartoon-world where (in the city) traffic flows uninterrupted even though there is a major battle being fought on the ground and in the sky.

What "Revenge of the Sith" was, was: poorly written. Badly acted. Overly complicated in stupid ways (I.E. the entire sub-plot of the "clones", which were just about the least terrifying straw-men ever erected in the entire, dubious history of PG-13 cannon-fodder.)

This supposed capstone of the trilogy was, in fact, just another overhyped dud from a director who should have passed the franchise to Tarantino or somebody capable of generating believable drama.

Despite this diatribe, I am not angry about it. How could I be? Its just a movie. But I want my $9 bucks back. And a bottle of sweet poison -- if this movie is given a thumbs up by critics, I want no part of this universe. Let the Sith have it.
Its 12:34 on a weeknight.
I've been playing guitar in the dark, just like I used to do.
Hooked up the strat to the headphones, lay on the floor.
No light but the steady red diodes.
Thinking about how things used to be.
Not missing them so much as just remembering.
The old days.
And thinking about how I really, really, *really* don't want to go to work tomorrow.
My boss is taking her pointless ire at me out on a co-worker:
a guy who never did anything against her but show me the ropes,
and demand quality in a place where no one expected it.
I might be going back to school soon.
Against my will:
I am qualified to teach college.
I can find reefs with no names and Eastern European villages with too many names.
I can find places that people cared enough about to die for sixty years ago.
A hundred years ago.
A thousand years ago.
I can read papers from dead middlemen written in pristine English about subjects so dull they would put wood to sleep...
...ideal tent pole construction...
...inferior lubricants...
I can't teach 11th graders about Herbert Hoover.
Not without another year of school.
I've got a screenplay languishing in my brain, on hold. Always on hold.
My father in law just bought a trailer in West Virginia by a river in the mountains and it seems like the sweetest place on earth. $500 bucks for rent and I could write and rave and ignore anything I felt like. I could sell bellybutton lint to pay that rent. I could balance peanuts on my nose to the amusement of passing Kentuckians for that rent. That trailer sounds about right.

This weekend a tree fell on my car.
I don't care much.
So what if the windows broke.
Already the air don't flow.
Already the nice stereo is half asunder, faceplate ripped out.
Already the ignition has been half jimmied.
And the windshield cracked by flying gravel out of a black pipe on the interstate to Baltimore.
Already there is a coating of spitout fingernails like hoar frost on the carpet and too many discarded drumstick wrappers in the back,
accidental booger palaces erected under the seat,
Thats the beauty that my wife wants replaced pronto.
What a shame.
It was the last gift of a grandmother who died and needed her things divided. She'd kept it pristine, like a museum.
It needed wasting, and now its almost gone.
So what if a tree fell on it this weekend.
It gave me an excuse to chop wood.
Smash things with hammers.
Swing an axe.
That tree had been warning us all winter
with all leaves lost but three.
Hollow sound to every knock.
Dry creaking.
A few months ago my neighbor said she'd cut it down.
A few weeks ago the wasps began to gather for the kill.
I blasted them with great licking gusts of poison: airbursts that brought them sizzling down before my stalwart can.
Yet there remained embedded blind white babies injected,
who chewed.
So in a rainstorm friday, fifteen minutes after I decided not to take the car to see Star Wars, with my headphones on in the basement, down it smashed.
And gave me my perfect excuse to blow off laundry and chop, saw, and slam.
So, no, I don't want to go to work tomorrow,
not only because work sucks right now,
but because I'd rather play guitar in the dark tonight and sleep all day tomorrow and wake up only to cut wood by a river in West Virginia, and finish my screenplay as the sun sets.
So what if I can't. I'll ride metro. I'll make sour jokes. I'll be groggy for my ten o'clock meeting. I'll grouse to my coffee and nod.

So I already sacrificed tomorrow without even knowing it. Fuck tomorrow.

I think it is raining.

Maybe I'll go chop wood in the rain.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

On occasion, I find myself writing lengthy blog posts and then, for whatever reason, either not finishing them, or not posting them once they are finished.

Other times, I write a post and copy it to a permanent file to save for posterity.

I have accumulated many such posts on this trusty Department of Defense computer.

It is time to clean house.

To that end, I am posting all the pieces, parts, and otherwise undisseminated fragments of postings below. Be advised that there may be repeats in here, and others may make no sense whatsoever, nor accomplish whatever aim they originally had:

A True Story
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 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 at his wrist -- without him noticing.
I was on the platform that day, but I did not know about this occurrence until my father -- a minister -- told me about it later.


Unfinished Church Rant
Some of the responses I've heard about Gibson's "Passion of the Christ", as well as Lapsed Cannibal's recent foray into church, reminded me of some thoughts I had while attending church a few weeks ago.

Be aware that I grew up going to church, and that many of the most decent and thoughtful people I know go to church. The church has fed me, clothed me, given me lifelong friends, and taught me much about how to be a conscientious human being. Additionally, "the church" as an institution is capable of transforming individuals and accepting people from extremely diverse backgrounds. I personally know many Christians who live up to the standards they preach, and it gives me heart.

That being said, I find the act of going to church profoundly disturbing. Part of this feeling comes from observing the disconnect between the vestigal remnants of old, intolerant mideavil Catholicism with the newer, more progressive forms of Christianity specifically (in this case) as practiced by modern Methodists; the other part of my trouble comes from a general unwillingness to believe that the Bible is a reflection of some higher truth above and beyond any other form of human mythology. But that's a huge can of worms, better left for another post.

Church a few weeks ago went like this:

Church opened with some sort of missive in which we declared forthrightly that we were worthless, pitiful, horrible excuses for humanity, barely fit for the air we would need to inhale in order to plead for Jesus' mercy. (Note: Jesus is dead, by the way. We're supposed to be bummed out by that and sorry because he died for us. Even though we weren't born at the time. Be aware, that even though we killed him, he is not dead. Still we are guilty of murder. We can't win. What a drag.)

2. After being summarily torn down, we are supposed to rebound with "Words of Inspiration" or some such in which the "leader" reads a line, the congregation responds with a line, then both read a line together. This excercise has all the spontenaity of a wooden spoon, but has the capacity to raise the self esteem of every Speak N Spell within earshot.

3. A hymn is sung. It sounds very much like every hymn sung before and since. Most hymns were written at a time when it was thought that the only appropriate way to demonstrate piety was to restrain all emotions, improvisation, or variation. Any possibility of injecting bodily motion into the music (i.e. gyrations, hand-clapping, hip-shimmying or...*gasp*...dancing) are ruthlessly supressed by the ubiquitous, plodding organ and such interminably breathless, trite lyrics that they make The Collected Poems of Jewel seem like prizeworthy muses.

Back then, it was also considered ostentateous to have more than one melody for a song. Hence, all hymns sound identical.

Smiles are permitted, but not for the purposes of flirting with sexy choir girls.


Song Lyrics or: A Poem

Tonight I could go on a crime spree or try to dirtyflirt.

I could squeeze into my party shirt --

I could snort DMT --

till my brain turns to mercury,

collect the droplets and sculpt them into a statue of you and me.

Shred my fingers.

Kick off my shoes.

Wear out my feet doing walking blues.

And all the while think of you, Blue Light.

The city's mine tonight.


A Close Encounter

This is a true story. Every word of it. Except that I'm lying throughout most of it. If I lie when I say I'm lying, am I lying? I don't know. I can't figure it out. I'll leave it to the satellites who record my every word, who hold onto my every thought, to keep this record until social scientists can crack the Clay Sails algorithm.

I'd pay good money to get that formula. At least $15. With it, I'd know exactly how/when I would have my next existential crisis, my next dose of irrational euphoria, my next ill-conceived plan.

I was writing to my grandmother this morning on metro...

Whaaat? You don't believe me already?

Fuck off. I really was writing to her. A paper and pen letter, too, not an email.

The part about the aliens (coming up) didn't happen, but so?

Alright, I'll leave the aliens out of it. But I'm sure that guy in the green sweater with bug-eyes and a frizzy mullet was from an evaporated nebula formerly near Rigel II. Either that or Minneola. How a nebula evaporates, I cannot say, but probably it had something to do with a nearby supernova which acted like a giant interstellar hair dryer.

The main thing is, that freaks' secret plot to destroy Washington D.C. with a concoction of cooking spray and roasted barbie doll heads didn't come to fruition. Not just then anyway. Partly that was due to my vigilance, and partly it was due to the pair of 12" pinking shears I threatened him with, saying:

"Foe, begone. This city is reserved for Earthlings."

He buzzed his strange alien buzz toward me and hissed, then dissappeared into the crowd. The last I saw of him he was leaping over the turnstile waving a phoney looking diplomatic license plate.


A Backward Story, Of Sorts

The Kid and Lobo were stopped off at Clown Burger. Despite their stylish duds, neither had a dime to their name.
While Lobo was in the bathroom, The Kid stood and waited, chewing a soda straw. Unsupervised children darted all around him, slipping fistfulls of stolen napkins into the dispenser and sneaking ketchup back into the bin.
"Kids," he thought, amused.
One particularly forlorn child was sitting on the floor, teary eye festooned with a fist. On a whim, The Kid aimed his straw at the sniveling youngster and made a great wooshy lung-sound. A paper wrapper came catapulting from the tile beneath an empty table, bounced off the child's eye, and alighted perfectly on the end of the Kid's straw. The Kid made a funny face and poised to blow the wrapper off, much to the child's delight. The Kid calmly re-wrapped the straw and put it back in the dispenser.
Meanwhile, Lobo had found the bathroom a remarkably ordinary. In other words, it was a smelly, disgusting mess. Lobo didn't mind. He flushed the toilet (he always did this before using a bathroom, although, for reasons unclear, rarely did so afterward).
Lobo pulled down his baggy jeans and squatted in calm repose, waiting. Perhaps out of boredom, or perhaps out of some unconventional sense of timing, he snatched a gob of sodden paper from the bowl and wiped his ass with it until it was filthy.
He did not have long to wait. From even before he sat down, Lobos' excrement had begun a journey repeated endlessly in bathrooms everywhere across the nation: a blind, squishy sliding through watery tubes toward a small bright spot. If there was symbolism in the journey, Lobo did not notice. If there was irony in the fact that the journey would result in only a mere moment of open-air freedom, Lobo did not care. There were many kinds of freedom. Lobo knew that, but he did not care about that either -- especially not at that moment for, at that instant, a fizz and a gurgle issued from the toilet. Beneath him, there suddenly appeared a long turd like an oily black banana.
The turd lept troutlike out of the water, smashed up against his filthy, dilated bunghole, and wriggled its way steadily inside, all the while cleansing (relatively speaking) Lobo's hairy sphincter as it passed. Once inside it paused as if collecting itself for the next phase of its climb.
With little else to do after that, Lobo peered between his legs, bored, half-mezmeriezed by the strange man-fruits growing from his trunk. A sense of anticipation subsided in him until he stood, with a sigh, hiked up his chonies and moonwalked gracefully out of the bathroom.
He found The Kid and together they went over to the nearest trash dispenser to retrieve a full compliment of greasy wrappers and empty, soggy fry boxes. Somewhat cryptically, the can bore the words "thank you", as if the trashcan itself was capable of gratitude.
Still, it was probably because the poor guy who came and tended the can was grateful to have a job. Most people working at such low-level gigs were just trying to make ends meet the best they could. He respected that. He'd done it for years himself working at the record shop -- that is until they'd fired him for playing Black Sabbath backwards and revealing the non-satanic lyrics.
"Do what you gotta do," the Kid said as they moonwalked over to their table, and spread out the paper and cartons.
"I gotta take a shit," Lobo said, "Bitch."
"Sticks and stones," the Kid said, chewing. He opening his mouth and spit out gob of half chewed burger, which formed into a delicious looking burger. He glanced at it admiringly.
"Watching you eat is like watching a hog slaughter itself," Lobo said, pulling a whole french fry from between his teeth, followed by another. His hands glimmered with fat.
The Kid spit another blob into the wrapper. Within moments, he had in his hands a fully assembled burger.
"This lettuce is yellow," the Kid said, queasily peeling open his hamburger bun.
"Mmmm," Lobo said, eyeing his now full carton of french fries. No longer were the fries a pipe dream: they were all his, baby. Every last, golden, crispy one of them. He could be nice and share, of course, but so could the Kid.
Neither one of them did.
"Well, what do you say?" the Kid said..
"You tell me, Churchboy," Lobo said, dryly.
"Grace?" the Kid said, innocently.
They both laughed.
"But not Grace," Lobo added, soberly. He would share everything he had with his pal -- everything including some women they'd known -- but not Grace. She was different. She was special, somehow. He really felt like things were moving forward with her. Still, the Kid couldn't be blamed for trying, and Lobo knew that even though Grace was a terrible tease, she would never go for a slutty guy like the Kid. Lobo knew his bitches. Lobo softened.
"What is yours is mine, amigo. Even my women," Lobo said, magnamoniously. He dredged the last gurgly strand of milkshake foam from his throat and spit it through a straw into an empty cup on the table. Then he noticed a 'certain look' in the Kid's eye.
"Mind if I have a sip? I won't use the straw." the Kid said, taking up the shake and, avoiding the straw, tilted his mouth to the cup. White ice cream gushed upward and out, half filling the cup. Lobo took it up again.
The two prattled on like that. Eventually, they moonwalked passed dozens of patiently waiting customers and went to the front of the line. One lady smiled at Lobo as he passed. She reminded him of someone he knew.
Lobo and the Kid passed the cashier their trays of food.
"Here you go," the Clerk said, handing the Kid nine dollars and seventy cents. From the back came a frenzied cacaphony of beeping microwaves, shouted orders, and steaming fryers. Clown Burger was never quiet.
"That's all I got," the Kid said wistfully.
"2 burgers, 2 fries, 1 milkshake, 1 soda -- that's nine-seventy," the Clerk said.
"Your treat, -- you owe me," Lobo said to the Kid. "I'm having a burger, fries and vanilla shake."
"And for you, Sir?" the Clerk said.
"One burger, one fry and 1 soda," the Kid said to the clerk behind the register.
After giving their order, the two young men waited patiently as several people stepped in line in front of them. Soon they were at the end, with looks of anticipation on their hungry faces.


100 Things

1. I threw my watch away in the desert. Its still there, somewhere.

2. I watched F-16s blast Hezzbolah positions as "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" played over loudspeakers. I was and am still ashamed at my elation.

3. I love disorganized dancing in dark, anonymous throngs.

4. I prefer dark complexioned women with accents.

5. I am very happily married to a fair complexioned women without an accent.

6. I shot my uncle with a shotgun. I caught myself in the same blast.

7. When I drink, I prefer small amounts quickly to large amounts slowly.

8. I am more critical of myself than anyone I know.

9. I do not believe that humans have the capacity to confirm the existence of god.

10. I prefer "Get Smart" to "I Love Lucy".

11. I've never seen even a single episode of "The Honeymooners".

12. I think Astrology is fun but should never be taken seriously.

13. The first book over 100 pages I read was "The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure"

14. I won back-to-back titles of the "Miss [Camp] Cisquito" contest, where girls dressed up guys and held a beauty contest.

15. I recognize the genius of the Beatles, but am sick of Beatlemania.

16. I have a guilty affection for romantic comedies.

17. The older I get, the more beautiful people become.

18. The continents intrigue me in this order: Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America.

19. I don't watch sports because games are more fun to play than watch.

20. I can't decide if I should take myself seriously or not.

21. Bernie Mac doesn't make me laugh.

22. There's nothing better than having the giggles but I don't get them very often.

23. I rarely finish what I start.


The First Page of A Non-Novel



("Besides what, Clay?")

I dunno.

Its Emotions that govern my days more than thoughts, more than Dogmas or Beliefs. So that...

...some nights barreling down the highway with certain music playing, hopelessly manic, propelled by some Spike in lustful Appetite. You unstoppable, lost in destabilizing dreams, as if you may not always have to feel this way Alone but, moments later, down those same lanes, far away farmhouses bestride air so dense nothing at all could Ignite (& its just you and the Moon, bound by unspoken Pact: She illuminates nothing and you tend your secrets in darkness without leaving so much as a shadow to be remembered by).

...slouched in a crater on a waste of a Sunday, hating the motionless of the walls and every word the Telephone might say if it could see you where you hung it.


Another Poem

At a campfire onion and a ring of toes,
with ballerina walnut glue in the nose,
your struggle for love still unexposed,
upon the useen yonder,

you see it now in three-fifths time,
slide her down the column lime
in a cool expanse of turquoise vines,
beneath a shady pool or

placement of a single spark,
a well-placed glint of tinfoil heart,
a sandstone clock with just the part
to wind up winter’s ill.

And there you are with parchments bold,
pronouncements shivering to be told,
where you’ll wait out the revolt,
your fear of fear itself.

Cuz if she’s next, you’ll stay your hand,
Letting her win her man
But rocks and scissors don’t combine,
She’s smashing you despite it,

And all those shivery walks in sand

welcome to the new alone


Another False Start

Never fight a man named Teague. Its a policy of mine. Somehow being saddled with that name just makes men tougher and meaner. That's not to say you can't win in a dust-up, but there will certainly be blood.

Since some of my crimes are not beyond their statute of limitations, I have changed the names of people and the locations of certain events. This was not done to deceive, and otherwise my story remains true: every word of it.


Questing & Quenching

The primary conceit of self-awareness is an ability to find in one's existence
some measure of great, central, or even cursory importance to some
all-encompassing whole. Whether this be Fate, Karma, or an earnest belief in some
Invisible Other whose Hand (such as it may be) traces Designs in which You, the
brain hoisted above self-propelled meat, are compelled to follow (and sometimes
love, and sometimes delight in the very incruitability of, as if abstruseness
itself Proved some quality of Intention over stupid Chance...)

Where was I? Ah, yes...

Recognizing that the act of simply passing a nonsensical idea from one generation
to the next imbues it with a quality of Wisdom that no application of Reason (or
that other great habit of meat-based intelligence: forgetting) can dispell, it is
rarely of any use (and certainly of no cosmic importance) to disabuse the faithful
of their beliefs in Order, Karma, or the Transcendent Soul.

However, there are limits to what prodigious athiesm and contempt for whatever
form of ephemeral dogmatism might be in vogue that century might accomplsih. No
quanitity of animism, B'aalism, Zoroastrianism, the Jesus cult, voodoo, Kaballa,
Feng Shui, Falon Gong, Numerology, Astrology, Buddhism, Mormonism, Branch
Davidianism, Islam, etc. has ever conclusively sated the human desire to invent
new contours of importance for ourselves and our little bluegreen bean pod, yet to
individually expose the folly of each is an even more futile effort than questing
for immortality among gods.

Thus, I drink.


Please Excuse This Post

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".

Nothing more enticing, more promising, than reading self-described rambling. Especially when its written by 14 year old chicks in Singapore who can only write in symbols.

i.e. this excerpt from a random blog
that 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

Well, 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 that allows me to serve you better."

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 the teeming mass of humanity.

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 in the elevator:

"Excuse me for causing you to have to shift your fat ass three inches to the side so that I can exit. I do not know what I would have done if you hadn't. Probably just stood here and sweated some more."


Welcome to the Prison World

One of them jabbed me with a nerve nuke. When I awoke, I had my tat. My head was scraped raw. I had a name.

They called me:
7-0-5-0-7, or "lucky" because no one with an anagram name had died yet.


So I was told.


Yes, But Your Mental Health is in Serious Jeopardy

How to Remain Healthy:

Lately, people have been trying Atkins, a diet that says, essentially:

1. Remember how your mother always said the best way to lose weight is to eat less, excercise more and eat your veggies? Forget everything your mother said.

2. Don't avoid eating fat, just avoid eating stuff that stops you from burning fat. Bread is a good example of this.

3. People accumulate fat by leading a sedentary life: browsing web pages, sitting in cars, reading books.

4. Read my book.

Another popular diet takes a whole different approach, namely:

1. Remember how your mother always said the best way to lose weight is to eat less, excercise more and eat your veggies? Forget everything your mother said.

2. Don't avoid eating fat, just eat less, excercise more, and eat your veggies.

3. People accumulate fat by leading a sedentary life: browsing web pages, sitting in cars, reading books.

4. Read my book.

The Clay Sails diet plan involves yet a third approach:

1. Get your wife/husband to nag you mercilessly about every calorie you eat.

2. Excercise more. Especially common sense when selecting books to read.

3. Never ever ever believe the hype surrounding a fad diet. (Historical perspective, for the record: all fad diets appear to have "real scientifically proven" results. This is not a new phenomenon.)

4. Eat your veggies.

5. (This is the most important one) buy my 7781 page "How-to lose weight by using this Book". If you carry it with you and consult it before every meal, you are virtually guaranteed to lose weight.

But I am not here to promote my new, as of yet untested, weight loss plan. Hell, I am lunching on frosted donuts as I write.

I am here to tell you that yesterday I did my general health a favor by going to the doctor. Now, for those of you who do not know me, I am not going to browbeat you with statistics about how when a man gets to a certain age he requires a regular finger up the ass to ensure that he will be able to sustain a long and healthy life. First of all, I am not at that "certain age" yet (but will be at around 114), and secondly, I would prefer short, sick life to getting an annual meathook in the colon by a stranger who isn't even decent enough to wear pasties and call me "hon". (NOte: if your doctor is a fat, hairy man, this image might cause you consternation. Best just to move on.) Fortuantely, all my doctor needed to do was stare at my tongue and root around my ear for missing car keys. This ordeal was enough to justify the considerable trouble I had gone through to get to the doctor's office. Allow me to elaborate.

It has been shitty cold, icy and slushy lately. This woeful weather is supposedly anomalous in a climate that, locals *swear* is "mild". Yeah. Mild like Liza Minelli after half a bottle of pills and a 5th of scotch. "Thank god we don't live in Minnesota, they say". Chuckle chuckle. Yeah, sure. Whatever. You don't see me trying to get a spread in St. Paul now, do you?


At least in Minnesota when a body of water un-freezes it becomes a lake. Here in Maryland when a lake melts, it becomes...a parking lot...a highway...and, (if you're like me), the front seat of your leaky car.

Speaking of which -- the car is partly responsible for my health-minded adventure yesterday afternoon. Remember how I've been bitching lately about how expensive that little beast has become? $1000 here, $600 there. Something like $2500 in the past 8 months. Remember? What, you can't keep my rants straight? YOu only remember me bitching about the thousands I've spent recently on dental bills ($5500 in the past 2 months, no joke, including another $1500 yesterday *after* I went to the doctor...and not including the wisdom teeth he said I now need removed...which my wife assures me is ok because the less teeth I have the less cavities I will have to get filled in the future). But back to my car. My precious little 1995 Ford Escort. Turqoise. Grandma's last set of wheels, (may she RIP). A thing that has gotten a new alternator, a new radiator, a new set of tires, new brakes, new rotors and a bunch of other new stuff in the past year.

Well, two weeks ago the blower motor (i.e. the heater) broke. It just went kaput. *Pfft*. Nothing. Now it gives off no heat except for the occasional disdainful gasp of warmth that works its way naturally through the ventillation system when I'm going high speeds. Just a fuse perhaps, you ask? No. I wish. I replaced the proper fuse to no avail. Probably that means its the heater core itself -- the second most expensive repair after the transmission. Needless to say, I ignored it. Who needs a heater? I need a heater about as much as I need a kick in my fancy new teeth. Besides, when its 11 degrees outside, I can pat myself on the back that I wasn't foolish enough to acquire my frostbite in a place with a *really* cold climate (like Minnesota).

So the heater broke and I've been cold. Big deal. Absent a heater, I am cold in my car. So what. So what? Haven't you been watching the news?

There's been an ice storm the past two days. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept (I'm talking mainly to the Californians here), an ice storm is a bit like electing a movie star for governor except it comes with a massive quantity of hard-packed ice, has no star-appeal whatsoever, and cannot possibly making your state the laughingstock of even bingo addicts in Ohio. In fact, when word gets out that someone somewhere is suffering from an ice storm, people stop laughing altogether. Everyone from the Carolinas to Canada engages in one bit, collective gulp, causing tornados to form in Brazil that will eventually result in small small pacific islands being devoured by hordes of wayward butterflies.

So...cold in ice storm. You'll grant me that. Again, so what?

Well, cold is unhealthy for one and the whole point of this discussion is to demonstrate that I was healthy yesterday because I went to get (3 year out of date) annual physical. But absent a heater, a car has one other problem: it has no front defroster. Every breath I exhale, every wisp of steam from a life-sustaining warm beverage (whose succor can combat the effects of having my own personal glacier on the passenger seat floor), will materialize on the windshield in the form of opaque mist.

Which led me to a catch-22: if I rolled up the windows to build up (body) heat on the inside, steam would form that would obscure all vision and might not cut the ice anyway. If I left the window down, the inside of the car would be so cold that every single droplet of frozen rain would remain present and frozen on the outside of the window. This is exactly what happened. The instant I got onto the freeway, a carapace of ice formed on my windscreen thicker than that which formed on Hillary Clinton's thighs the instant Matt Drudge outed Monica to the world.

Yet I still had 20 miles to go, and 40 minutes get there, otherwise I'd miss an appointment I'd waited four months to get and take a day off of work to go to. If I missed it, how would I ever find out if I was healthy or not?

Reasoning thus, I did what any health conscious individual would do: I sped down the road hell-bent for leather, leaning out the window, scraping ice on the outside as I drove, blasting music to create vibrations strong enough to loosen the smaller bits of ice. I guzzled tepid coffee to sustain my inner strength, and prayed that the misty blob hovering before my eyes was not either:

a) the onset of frostbite on my iris or

b) a snow plow behind a screen of mist, glass, and ice

I paused at every stoplight to scrape (effecting an odd sort of "chinese fire drill" in which I exchanged places with myself).

Eventually I made it to the doctor's and found out that despite my stressful travail, lo! I am perfectly healthy.

I even think I lost some weight in the process.


Well, Okay -- As Long As There’s Nothing Good on TiVo…

I need to go hunting.

Yes, you heard me right. My Attorney and I have spent considerable hours hunting insects at various times. We use sticks and rocks mainly. But hunting insects is hardly sporting. Its easy enough to kill one insect, but if they want to kill you (i.e. me) they just swarm you and its over very quickly. Nor do I wish to go hunting with a rifle. Rifles are just too darn unsporting, and who likes eating deer meat anyway?

I want to go spear hunting.

I want to strip down to a loincloth, oil myself in pig fat, and face down a charging boar.


Is This A Post?

oleg lungstrom russian jazz


If Boar Hunting Ever Gets Dull…

Here's my idea.

How's abouts you mosey on down here right about four hours ago.

We'll wander endlessly among ugly cement office towers and hotels.

We'll whip up community theater for pigeons and train squirrels to dance for peanuts.

We'll snarl and ape at curious children.

We'll tape pencils together to catch boots in the Potomac.

We'll array ourselves in newspaper and shamble like mummies.

We'll demand tokens from strangers and curse vehemently their suspicious retreats.

We'll make faces in ATM cameras.

We'll stand on my hands. (Ouch. You're fat.)

We'll make fine hill ornaments, you and I, festooned to nearby grassy slopes, chins on our knees and...

...squander and piss the day away in some finer way than the fashion I have lately employed this July 6.


A Stale Set-Up, Never Unfunny

I wonder if there is a political movement celebrating militant apathy.

Maybe I should start one.



Here’s to You, Mother

Ever notice the way certain young mothers carry themselves in the presence of others? Not all of them, mind you, but a select few who appear particularly alert, alive, and attuned. There’s something in their deepened features and quickened strides, but I know not what.

Perhaps it is that they have, by birthing their own, successfully glimpsed the benchmark on their own long ago births and can, at last, measure time.

I wonder: do they find that it marches in minute increments, seconds and years? Or is it, as it seems, more likely to appear millimeter by millimeter: in the steady growth of a newborn, or the lengthening lattice of worry and laughter upon the face that, like index lines, hint at onrushing depths.

I do not know the urgency of asking such questions of these mothers, as they push past me in the underground, or at the mall, or wherever I happen to find them.


Broken Already, and its Only May

My Nanowrimo efforts are officially over. I gave myself an extra week because Thanksgiving week was too filled with family. I did pretty well: I think I wrote about 40 pages. My momentum has flagged a bit since I re-discovered my music studio, which has been disassembled in boxes since our big move this summer.

I more oftener get satisfaction making music over writing fiction and the two compete very strongly for my already limited free time.

On the one hand, music is immediate, tangible, and sometimes trasendental (as when, last week, I went into a hypnotic state recording bass takes over and over and over. My thoughts narrowed to nothing, my hands moved of their own accord, I saw nothing for several hours. At the end I realized that my fingers still know the bass as well as ever.)

On the other hand, music is fleeting and generally profitless. The airwaves are full of smack churned out by talentless artists and genius producer/engineers. I make songs and pieces of songs and they fall into a hole in my hard drive. If I ever collect my efforts into a CD again, the songs will just fall into a hole on other people's IPODs. This is both good and bad. In theory I am just happy to have such a satisfying hobby and I really do believe that music should be made with other goals than preserving it for the ages. In practice, a few million bucks and a license to spend all my time making hit music is quite alluring. Except that one needs to be young and clueless to break into the music industry, and I have never cared to be hip enough anyway.

And although I consider myself more of a natural musician than a natural writer, books seem to be more lasting. They are also a deeper medium. Good song lyrics (ala Dylan or Alanis) or an unforgettable melody can make you say to yourself "cool", but they can't deliver the range of emotions as well as a kickass book. Someday I'd like to pull a book out of a shelf, hand it to people and say, "here you go, now leave me alone so I can make some music."

I'm giving my writing efforts short shrift here. I think its because I've been a frustrated writer for more than half my life. This blog, in fact, represents the only "successful" thing I've ever done with words -- and that is certainly up for debate! My stories languish year after year, growing ever more cumbersome. Fresh ideas are a dime a dozen and usually worthy of a page or two before inspiration flags. Maybe I have ADD. Somebody send me pills.

But forget all the philosophy. Here are my goals for the upcoming year:

1. Finish a manuscript.
2. Complie another CD.
3. Form a band.

Maybe these are "New Years Resolutions" a month early. Maybe I should try to accomplish these things before New Years. THAT would be a challenge...


Step Aside P-Diddy, Its M.C. Jitterfinger

I spew typos like south sea volcanos spew crispy virgins.


Query Me This

If you had to be a smurf which one would you be and why.

If you had to be a flavor of ice cream "

Have you ever killed anything larger than a bug on purpose

If you knew you were to be murdered, how would you want to die.

Would you like to know the date of your death in advance.


Dead Presidents Make Splash

Went to the spa town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia this weekend.

Didn't "take the waters" like you're supposed to when you're at places like that. I love natural springs, but only hot ones. The "medicinal value" of "spring water" is complete crap. Unless it is polluted, water is water. Sure, some is higher in various minerals, some is lower. Big deal. One banana has more minerals in it than ten gallons of water.

My wife pointed out that in the old days people rarely bathed and probably had lice and drank polluted water, so spring water probably was healthier.

George Washington bathed there. No joke. They have a little tub of luke warm water that he used to wash off in. The thought of George Washington's lice floating in that little pool was enough to make me queasy.

Folks are trying to turn Berkeley Springs into a yuppie hideaway (like Sonoma or Sedona or Vale). They won't succeed. West Virginia is inordinately resistant to new forms of wierdness. That's partly why I like it. Plus old spas have lives of their own not subject to the momentary conceits of any particular generation.

This is partly why I am attracted to them: to their heavy limestone bathhouses, their inevitable photo displays of ham-armed beauties in the 20s, rotting taxidermy displays. Such places truly are fonts, not of medicinal water, but of an even more powerful potion: optimism. The belief that something transformational can be found taking a holiday to a wet crack in the ground. Belief more reliant upon hope than healing...so much so, and with such proven results that any distinction between them blurs until they flow seemlessly together. All the hopes of dead presidents and celebrities who travelled there, the wounded veterans, the tired holidaymakers and family men; all the moonlit trysts in secret swimming holes and toppled ice cream cones, lapped up by opportunistic dogs but still longed for (years later) by toddlers (now teens, now adults, now gone)...these form not a spring but a flood and the channel is no tiny, stone-lined bank but time itself.

A Wedding, Revisited?

We blew out into the San Joaquin around noon Friday. I owed Unbreakable a knife to replace the one that slipped down a latrine during a drunken fish-gutting demonstration in Yosemite (see my post from August 26, 2003), so we had big plans for hitting a mall or a blacksmithy on the way to Tahoe. Instead we hit Sacramento traffic and so much wildfire smoke that visibility was reduced to a few hundred feet. Not that there was much to see: the San Joaquin Valley is a flat, dusty waste full of impoverished agricultural villages and junk cars. Sactown, as Sacramentans like to call that slice of dubious paradise, has some nice downtown areas and certainly isn't as shitty as Fresno or Modesto, but its still an undeniable hole. No disrespect intended. (heh) The smoke just accentuated the normal vast quantities of airborne particulates, toxic pollutants, aerosols, ozone and pesticides that typically obscure the sun. Coupled with the bloated grapefruit sun, it heightened the sense that we were closing in on some apocalyptic locale out of Burrough's "City of the Red Night". In reality, we were heading to a wedding.

We climbed past Sac and up into the dry western foothills of the Sierras. We stopped at Donner Pass to read signs about a group of Mormons or other pioneers who ate each other one winter in the 1840s. By the time we left, I was quite hungry. Nervous at the way I was looking at her, so she dropped me off at a gas station to procure chile picante corn nuts (available, apparently, only in California).

We dropped into the Tahoe basin only to discover that its usual vast, pristine blue was nowhere to be found. Instead, there was a brown layer of smoke even thicker than we'd found in the valley. Even though neither Unbreakable nor Magic Fingers are the sort of people to let trivialties like a cloud of choking smoke ruin their party, I began to get nervous. Wedding days are stressful even for the most easygoing of people, and can be quite fragile.

But my nerves were uwarranted. From the moment we arrived until the moment we slipped out early Sunday morning, everything went well. The wedding was held at a wooded lodge with several sleeping cabins and a large main hall. Unbreakable & M.F. had assembled the usual cast of characters: their respective parents & step-parents, ex-private eyes (myself and Unbreakable's uncle), a transvestite or two, the son of a diplomat, a few aloof teenagers, and several kids hopped up on hormones and Diet Pepsi. There were also many friends of mine, including my Attorney & Amber, the Captain, AirMark & Amy, and, of course, the enigmatic and prenially lovely M., whom I dated for several years but have not heard from in years since a brief summernight conversation in which she described evolutionary methods of inducing insanity in ants and the scientific value of pesticide bombing trees in Borneo.

The first night we knocked off a healthy quantity of good scotch, tapped a few kegs, played ping pong & pool, and wound up forming what my Attorney likened his "Cracker Harem" owing to the fact that he (a descendent of Persian royalty) suddenly found himself in a hot tub with five scantily-clad white boys, a quantity of cheap cigars, and much intoxicating booze.

Sometime around 3 a.m. my Attorney and I shuffled off to the room we were sharing (with our women), whereupon in the semi-somnolent silence he became possessed by a sudden and very uncontrollable Fit. The trigger for this episode came in the form of a relatively mundane, if keenly audible, fart. Somehow, the wrongness of breaking silence by breaking wind in such a small, public space occupied by two women and one's chum inspired him to release in accompanyment a tiny giggle, which cut its own path through the still morning air. I returned somewhat nervously, less I become implicated in this sordid and juvinile enterprise. That did it. The wrongness of giggling after such a fart compounded the wrongness of the loosing it to begin with and only increased the hillarity. He laughed a bit louder. I found myself unable to refrain from doing the same. All hell broke loose. Soon we were bellowing and laughing with absolutely no restraint, much to the amazement and (I daresay) astonishment of the ladies in the room. Their stunned silence -- so effective at stunting impending zaniness when accompanied by visual cues -- was worthless since the room was quite dark. We were forced, instead, to *imagine* the exponentially increasing trouble we were by the minute finding ourselves in. In the way of similar Fits since time immemorial, the enforcement of self-restraint only resulted in pregnant silences, which were soon filled with resumed and (if possible) even more vigorous laughter. This lasted perhaps twenty minutes or so. Needless to say, I blame my Attorney entirely. He was under much pressure as a result of his being (did I mention?) the officiant of the wedding the very next day.

The wedding took place on the lawn in the late afternoon as the sun was failing. A row of pumpkins served to delineate the aisle. The audience sat respectfully in folding chairs. I had been under the impression, up until the previous day, that my role in this wedding was confined to:

a) giving moral support to the participants
b) ensuring that the booze supply did not exceed allowable quantities for a party

Upon arrival I learned that Unbreakable's request that I "say something" meant that I was to speak in defense of the union during the ceremony proper. (Yes: "say something" was the sum total of the instruction/explanation I received on the subject, despite U.B.'s protestation otherwise). Nevertheless, it went well. Whereas mailaway ministers can sometimes lack either the intimacy or the professionalism required of such a service, my Attorney (Reverand of the Universal Life Church) lacked neither. The service included testaments from three members each of the bride and groom's friends/family (of which I was a member on the groom's side), and
when we'd had our peace, the Bride and Groom said their homemade vows to one another. I know what you're thinking: homemade vows = automatic cheese. But you would be wrong. They had each secretly written their vows and delivered them with a tenderness and unselfconscious I would not myself have been able to muster. The bride, who despite proclaiming an acute shyness has ever been possessed by a most remarkable quantity of public courage, sang a song to the groom. Again, normally brides and grooms singing to one another at a wedding = cheese, but this was very tender and successful. By the end of the vows, there was not a dry eye in the place. The Reverand had to dab his eyes with his bible (or maybe it was the latest paperback from Donald Westlake) in order to see enough to conclude the service.

Then people did something with candles as they processed out (I mean in), and we let the real gluttony begin. There was even more fine whiskey to be sampled, and much pot luck food. There was a dance contest in which my affected striptease beat out the bride's brother's worm. There was the bride's stepdad who thought it would be more fun to make the group wait to give toasts while he sat on the couch and watched the end of a football game (that he could barely tear himself away from in order to get photographed for the pictures). There were hundreds of individualized cakes baked to order by the bride and groom (note: this is *insane*. Never try it.).

Eventually we all ended up back in the hot tub again but this time with numerous women, a suave Cubano, the Bride and Groom, several IT programmers, and at a bottle of champaigne. Somebody suggested that we make more toasts and swig from the community bottle. Three hours and as many bottles of champaigne and wine later, the damage had been done. Somehow during the extravaganza, a toast was made to my nipples, somebody toasted artifice, another person squares or parolellograms (I forget which). A few of the booze bottles had become partially refilled with a new form of sweet intoxicating liquor that might be dubbed "agua de tub water". Over the course of the evening, we managed to squeeze a record number of people (perhaps 12?) into a 6 person hot tub. It was a gas.

Sometime well after midnight I bade the revellers adieu (as we would have to leave before dawn the next morning) only to find that not only my wife, but also my ex-girlfiend M. had somehow heeded the rallying cry of the Captain in his everlasting fight against the Dread Pirate Booze. They had all become marooned upon a solitary couch, beneath a single blanket, and were listening to the Captain's numerous enchanting war stories. Moments after sighting this strange and uncharted shore, I, too found myself snuggled up on that couch, shivering from the water and the mountain air. Despite the very real possibility that my presence would disrupt the strange solidarity developing between my wife and my ex, for a few moments I was simply content to be warm and in the presence of three very important people in my life. As we spun our stories up, somebody (perhaps me) put in my CD "King of the Hobos" which my Attorney had brought and I never heard it sound so good. As "Leaving Cheyenne" came on I suddenly realized that its plaintiveness matched my mood exquisitely. I'd be leaving all my good friends before sun came up. This wedding, which I had looked forward to for so long, was over and had ended well... Just as I was beginning to feel nostalgic, my Attorney stumbled in, offered some timely but unmemorable comic relief, praised my voice on "New Madrid", and stumbled out again (sensing some sort of unfathomable drama involving ex-girlfriends and wives). This reminded the group on the couch how just minutes prior to my arrival the groom's intoxicated brother had stumbled drunkenly out of the hot tub and onto the floor in front of them. Nude. With his thingy (he publically calls "The General") hanging out. Whereupon he collected his dignity and stumbled into a nearby shower. With that charming image newly etched into the brain, it was off to bed for us.

Next morning we passed the Captain and M. who had retired from the couch to the hot tub. We said our goodbyes, and headed down the mountaint to Reno. We ate Denny's served up by a dynamo that resembled a woman but operating at such a hyperkinetic level so early in the morning that she could only have been a machine. I checked in my new gun (this being the fourth time out of four trips to California I'd somehow come into the possession of a firearm), and off we went in a cloud of smoke.


The Wisdom of A [Lapsed] Cannibal

“It is meaningless -- all of it, everything -- if you take the long view. 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.” [read more of him on Glassmaze]

Me an' my wife have been lately catching up on DVD releases of the show "Red Dwarf". It is a campy, wierd, hillarious spoof-sci fi show starring a regular joe, an uptight hologram, a very stupid supercomputer, and a mutated cat that dresses and talks like James Brown (set 3,000,000 years in the future on a starship the size of a city, whereon they encounter many wierd and fanciful situations). It has a so-called "cult" following but I swear none of us dress like the characters or go to conventions or worship dead sci-fi writers.

Never heard of Red Dwarf? Well, you either don't live in the Commonwealth or you don't watch PBS TV at midnight.

The sheer quality of the entertainment gives one faith in the varied possibilities that exist in alternate universes, you know, the one where Hollywood doesn't dominate the small screen with predictable crime dramas, dull sitcoms featuring recycled stars, plots, and jokes; variety shows with fawning interviews and endless self-referential tripe. You know. That one.

On other fronts, I received a newsletter from the D.C. trio Continuous Play. The band is incredible live, but the Emails that Patrick from the band sends out are just as humourous. Here is a prime example, verbatim:

Howdy, Peeps.

Please check us out this Sunday for a little post-church musical revue at Firehouse Cue. The harmonies will be angelic, but the rock will be straight from the diseased gums of Satan's mouth (or did you suppose that the Angel of Darkness flosses?).

As excited as we are about our two upcoming shows (what with premiering new> songs at Firehouse Cue and premiering ourselves to the Outer Banks of NC next weekend), we are quadruply excited about the Funk Box show on May 26. Their dance floor is spring-loaded, people! Put that caboose to use. We're playing with two bands we know and love, and we're really hoping to make a great impression on the club, so please come on out and represent yo'self. In other news, how's everybody's life going? I'm sad to report I am once again single; my girlfriend and I broke up last weekend. How is this band news? Well, let's just say that the next 17 songs you hear me write for Continuous Play will probably trace back to this event. Redundant as the topic becomes, relationship drama is one of those sure-fire> methods for harnessing The Muse. Some other quality strategies I've found are ...

* trying to quit your job
* trying to quit smoking (pot)
* realizing it's Mother's Day and you haven't bought a damn thing
* going on a murderous spree and then trying to figure out 'What was THAT> all> about?"
* drinking my patented "Inspirado Cocktail" - 24 oz O'Douls non-alcoholic> brew,> 2 tbsp baking soda, 4 melted Nerd ropes, 1 pureed lamb shank, salt to taste
* spending a summer at Space Camp for the sake of a bittersweet homecoming
* reading world news page, dimly apprehending a foreign nation's political situation, taking a bold stand of protest, nonetheless
* following a professional clown around on his errand-day
* getting your car towed
* spending the night in jail in a third world country
* marrying a dutchess

The important thing is to always keep the creative channels open - no matter what you're trying to create. Speaking of which, I've gotta go the bathroom. Thanks as always for hanging out with the CP crew! See you soon.

Magically delicious, Continuous Play

See what I mean?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I have been all day mulling a story over in my mind even as I fail to finish the one I've been lately working on (the latter: a screenplay, my first-ever, a great, pretentous, noir flick about the Civil War; the former: a sci-fi novel protagonized by a hapless exterminator shrunk to the size of a poppy seed facing life-sized fire-ants and scorpions amok in a post-apocalyptic wasteland).

I have also been searching a formerly classified CIA documents for interesting buzz-words: Al Qaida, Iraq, ESP, Manson. My "Elvis" search resulted in an 11 page report "Synopsis of Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr's Far East trip 4/5-4/20/62" which, of the 11 pages, all but 3 are redacted (crossed-out). The 3 that are left is a candid, hoplessly myopic view of the situation in South Vietnam (1962). (Crossed out are his trips to Hawaii, Kwajalein, and Korea). I'm sure Stahr was once a big-wig, but now he's just shit like the rest of us. History is merciless on mid-level players.

I spent the morning at the Pentagon, leafing through an Atlas of Midieaval History (No J-A, I still can't spell that word!). We always think that Germany's (historically) recent attempts to snag Poland and the low-countries was a new phenomenon. No. They've been trying that one for centuries. And every other country, from puny Belgium to miniscule Lithuania have had their moments of grandeur and arrogance. I love reading about dead empires. Nothing like a long range view of things to knock the present state of yankee fuckeduppityness into perspective: I sure do love this country, but damn if we aren't just another momentary power strutting our (temporary) stuff on the world stage, soon to be forgotten. Or maybe we'll get carved up by the Canadians. Or invaded by angry Polynesians.

Last night I finished William Gibson's "Neuromancer". I really liked it. It surprised me that it did not slip into the easy sci-fi cliches of the (Cyberpunk) subgenre it supposedly spawned. Gibson of course poo-poohed his role in pushing that now bygone literary style to the forefront. He's too hip to want to take responsibility for that mess, and who blames him? What I found especially interesting was the reference to his friend "Tom Maddox" in the acknowledgement section of the book. It turns out that this individual is the father of a friend of mine from college with the same name. I know nothing of the father, who is apparently a sci-fi writer and a professor at Evergreen, but the son is an amiable rogue with a grand sense of adventure. I once took a Dungeons and Dragons (ahem "fiction writing") course designed by him at my [not to be mentioned undergraduate] university under circumstances best left undeliniated. He was responsible for my grade, but managed to get himself arrested the week before finals under other circumstances best left undescribed, and I had to scramble to get my grade from the class professor whose [lack of] involvement int he course is also best left undeliniated. This friend of mine is a 20th Century barbarian if there ever was one. He had flaming, Scottish Highlander hair and an unkempt, grizzled beard over most of his face. Despite the more than occasional times under which he found himself bewitched by the demon So[uthern]Co[mfort], and his propensity on such occasions to threaten to retrieve a very real battle axe that he kept stashed in his dorm room, he was quite an affable individual, as long as one did not get him within 100 yards of any monesteries or small fishing villages (which he would, reflexively, sack and burn). Instead of a log-hewn dragon-boat rowed by slaves, this friend of mine drove a massive, otherworldy Dodge Dart of such girth that it could (I swear) take on a Hum-V (armor plated or not). That fine steed met its demise one night as Tom (under the influence of some inner kachina) put the pedal to the floor...down the center of a nearby railroad track. It seems all that Detroit steel was unable to sustain the pressure of its own weight, and the frame bent into a sort of "V", after which point the car was useless. We retired it by filling the trunk full of water and speedo-clad homosexuals from the dorm and pushing it (manually) around the college quad. Ah, the good old days.

I've lost track of Tom, as with many good people from my past, but the Captain assures me that he is still very much alive and kicking in the backwaters of the South (SF) Bay. The fact that his father is friends with a great writer is no big thing, but an interesting link in the 7 degrees of separation.

I have been all day mulling a story over in my mind even as I fail to finish the one I've been lately working on (the latter: a screenplay, my first-ever, a great, pretentous, noir flick about the Civil War; the former: a sci-fi novel protagonized by a hapless exterminator shrunk to the size of a poppy seed facing life-sized fire-ants and scorpions amok in a post-apocalyptic wasteland).
I have also been searching a formerly classified CIA documents for interesting buzz-words: Al Qaida, Iraq, ESP, Manson. My "Elvis" search resulted in an 11 page report "Synopsis of Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr's Far East trip 4/5-4/20/62" which, of the 11 pages, all but 3 are redacted (crossed-out). The 3 that are left is a candid, hoplessly myopic view of the situation in South Vietnam (1962). (Crossed out are his trips to Hawaii, Kwajalein, and Korea). I'm sure Stahr was once a big-wig, but now he's just shit like the rest of us. History is merciless on mid-level players.
I spent the morning at the Pentagon, leafing through an Atlas of Midieaval History (No J-A, I still can't spell that word!). We always think that Germany's (historically) recent attempts to snag Poland and the low-countries was a new phenomenon. No. They've been trying that one for centuries. And every other country, from puny Belgium to miniscule Lithuania have had their moments of grandeur and arrogance. I love reading about dead empires. Nothing like a long range view of things to knock the present state of yankee fuckeduppityness into perspective: I sure do love this country, but damn if we aren't just another momentary power strutting our (temporary) stuff on the world stage, soon to be forgotten. Or maybe we'll get carved up by the Canadians. Or invaded by angry Polynesians.
Last night I finished William Gibson's "Neuromancer". I really liked it. It surprised me that it did not slip into the easy sci-fi cliches of the (Cyberpunk) subgenre it supposedly spawned. Gibson of course poo-poohed his role in pushing that now bygone literary style to the forefront. He's too hip to want to take responsibility for that mess, and who blames him? What I found especially interesting was the reference to his friend "Tom Maddox" in the acknowledgement section of the book. It turns out that this individual is the father of a friend of mine from college with the same name. I know nothing of the father, who is apparently a sci-fi writer and a professor at Evergreen, but the son is an amiable rogue with a grand sense of adventure. I once took a Dungeons and Dragons (ahem "fiction writing") course designed by him at my [not to be mentioned undergraduate] university under circumstances best left undeliniated. He was responsible for my grade, but managed to get himself arrested the week before finals under other circumstances best left undescribed, and I had to scramble to get my grade from the class professor whose [lack of] involvement int he course is also best left undeliniated. This friend of mine is a 20th Century barbarian if there ever was one. He had flaming, Scottish Highlander hair and an unkempt, grizzled beard over most of his face. Despite the more than occasional times under which he found himself bewitched by the demon So[uthern]Co[mfort], and his propensity on such occasions to threaten to retrieve a very real battle axe that he kept stashed in his dorm room, he was quite an affable individual, as long as one did not get him within 100 yards of any monesteries or small fishing villages (which he would, reflexively, sack and burn). Instead of a log-hewn dragon-boat rowed by slaves, this friend of mine drove a massive, otherworldy Dodge Dart of such girth that it could (I swear) take on a Hum-V (armor plated or not). That fine steed met its demise one night as Tom (under the influence of some inner kachina) put the pedal to the floor...down the center of a nearby railroad track. It seems all that Detroit steel was unable to sustain the pressure of its own weight, and the frame bent into a sort of "V", after which point the car was useless. We retired it by filling the trunk full of water and speedo-clad homosexuals from the dorm and pushing it (manually) around the college quad. Ah, the good old days.
I've lost track of Tom, as with many good people from my past, but the Captain assures me that he is still very much alive and kicking in the backwaters of the South (SF) Bay. The fact that his father is friends with a great writer is no big thing, but an interesting link in the 7 degrees of separation.

Friday, May 13, 2005

When you're evil, your evil twin is good.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Well, I lost another WritersWeekly contest. They hold one every season. I find the challenge of writing a short story in under 24 hours on a particular (broad) topic fun. I lost the first one with an absurd story called "The Huu Nose" about a strange archeological discovery that served no discernable purpose whatsoever. This time I went for sheer snob-literate appeal: broken families, missing relatives, the lingering tragedy of war. In retrospect, my second story was probably a hack-job, but it was WAAAAY better than the horrible tripe that won. I don't even understand the point of this season's winning story. Its about somebody hiding the fact that they like junk food from their boyfriend, and the relationship ends. Wee. I mean: thrill-a-minute, that one. Obese-obsessive Americans, reflexively self-reflecting. Anybody want to talk about S.U.V. rollovers, killer bees, fire ants, mad-cow disease or crib death? How about Janet Jackson's dessicated titty? Sheesh.

The runner ups are usually better, and the second-place story was quite good. The third-place winner was almost good but fizzled at the end. I hate to have sour grapes about a $5 writing contest, but a competition is a competition and (at least according to my dear mum): I'm a winner!


The parameters of the story are as follows: 2000 words that must touch in some way (however tangentially) the following set-up:

"When he bent down, he discovered a large book with gold lettering lying on its side behind the others. He pulled it from its hiding place, dislodging other books as he did so. When he opened the cover, he discovered that a crude, square area had been cut out of the pages..."
Here's my loser story:



Dear Mr. Johnson,

I hardly know what to say, so I will start by thanking you, but please forgive me if I harbor other less charitable emotions as well. None of us know quite how to handle this news, and the whole business has given Mother quite a shock. I suppose we would be happy if shock were the sum of her emotions, but she has been upset for a week now since your package arrived. She has hardly eaten anything, and is never far from tears.

My first question to you (which Mother is too polite to ask) is: why now? Why after all this time? Why not years ago? Whenever I wonder aloud why she still bothers keeping in touch with you, she tells me how after the war you used to drop in to check up on us, just to make sure we were getting along. Eddie says one of his earliest memories is of a little flag you brought him that you and Dad got off of a dead Japanese. Why couldn't all this have come out back then?

Eddie says you kept it quiet out of honor to Father. Dad asked you to do him a little favor on the tarmac that morning and you did it without hesitation. Of course Eddie thinks the world of you and always has. You were the closest thing he had to a father, even though Mom says you and Dad could not have been more different. She says you were the adventurous one -- outgoing and good with ladies -- while Dad was quiet and difficult to talk to. She says that even though you were her first kiss she went for him because he was made of stronger stuff.

I hope I'm not being mean by saying that. I never knew my father, and you haven't been around since I was a little girl so I hardly know you, either. This whole thing has brought up a lot of emotions and questions I didn't know I still carried.

I went to the library last week right after your package arrived. I went looking for anything at all about that part of the war that Eddie hadn't already collected. There wasnt much but I did read about conditions in that part of India -- the starvation that swept periodically up the Assam Valley, the sleepless nights full of deadly mosquitos, the constant fear of air raids, the daily flights over those deadly mountains. It all sounds so awful.

I spoke to a librarian who put me onto an agency that spends its time looking for lost guys from World War II. Can you imagine that? Someone still looking after all these years. I called their office in in Washington and spoke to a woman there who says they still have hundreds of missing guys like Father from that part of India. I asked her, just hypothetically, why an airman would give his dogtags to a buddy before a mission. She said that it was a common practice because when a soldier or airman went missing, the government kept his pay going a full year just in case he turned up. After that year, the government would declare him dead and stop the money.
I suppose you know all that. I suppose Father knew it, too. Do you think he had any idea of the anguish we would all feel for so long, not knowing what became of him? Did he honestly think that whatever little extra money Mother would receive that year would be worthless measured against a whole lifetime of waiting for answers?

You say in your letter that Father's last flight to Kunming was one you were originally scheduled to fly. You did not say why he took your place. You said that there was a storm in the hills and you both had premonitions of disaster that morning. What made you so uneasy, Mr. Johnson? Mother remembers that Father used to write postcards about how, despite all your jokes and baloney you were the best Hump pilot in the whole outfit. She says you had a reputation for being able to fly in any sort of weather, and knew secret routes across the mountains that no one else dared to look for. If you were so great, why was Father on that flight instead of you?
When I asked the government lady if they had a case file on Dad, she looked it up and said that his name appeared on a list of the missing, but nobody had information about how or where he had dissappeared. I asked her about the plane with the tail number you indicated in your letter. She told me that according to her sources, it had most likely crashed in the mountains between the Chabua Aerodrome in India and Kunming, China. Nobody had ever found the wreck. I asked her if Father's name appeared on the manifest. It didn't. She said the pilot was "Lt. E. Johnson." Isn't that funny? One man takes the place of another, and both end up lost. I gave her your address.

You mailed us the dog tags with your letter, claiming that you'd just 'found them hidden in a book,' that it reminded you of things you'd always meant to tell us but had forgotten. Call me uncharitable if you will, Mr. Johnson, but I don't believe that you forgot anything. You do not seem the forgetful sort. Lord knows Mother and Eddie used to spend hours listening patiently to you brag about every detail of your service in the war, hoping that you would reveal any new information at all about Father. I was too little to remember anything about those visits except that you smelled of whiskey and cigarettes.

Mr. Johnson, despite what Eddie thinks, even if you had forgotten those dog tags, it doesn't explain why would you have hidden them in the first place. After the war, did you really think there was any chance that the Government would come around to squeeze money out of an old war widow and her two young children? Would anybody except for us -- you, me, Mother, and Eddie -- have cared that Lt. Richard Wagner gave Lt. Earl Johnson his dog tags before taking his place aboard an airplane that would vanish forever into the fog? Eddie says it was honor to a dead buddy that kept you silent. I'm not sure if honor is the word I would use.
I hope this letter finds you.

-- Kitty Wagner

Speaking of literature, (which we obviously weren't), Elizabeth Allende's new book sounds awesome: Zorro...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I have to make up for this morning's relatively dull (I imagine) history lesson. Therefore, I will tell you all about:


Yes, that's what I said: gum.

The sticky stuff that orthodontists claim will rip your braces out even though your average piece of gum isn't even half as bad for dental work as overcooked steak or late-afternoon bagels.

Specifically, I wish to talk about the gum that I am chewing.

It's called "Pop Rocks Bubble Gum" and the words "Bubble Gum" are written in bile-inspiring, nacreous purple lettering.

Now, before I digress, and before I apologize for not focusing on something more "important" like the genocide-du-jour in Darfur, or the still-depleated ozone layer over Antarctica causing painful canchers on the reproductive organs of rare Chilean wood voles, I must state for the record that I, Clay Sails, being fully adult-like and possessed of a relatively [un]sound mind
love pop rocks.

Let me rephrase that for the folks back in Omaha:

I love Pop Rocks.

I know, I know. I am perfectly aware that they are no longer the miracle candy of one's youth, fizzing excitingly, inspiring sexual thoughts of big breasted babysitters and all-night Cable TV parties at your friend's house. Now they are merely 3g carbohydrate comestibles comprised of CO2, corn syrup and carcenogenic dye that react with the magical properties of that other undersung but chemically more profound chemical miracle: saliva.

Succinctly put: Pop Rocks...rock.

So when I went into Rite-Aid today seeking to entertain my inner-monkey with something tastey, I happened upon Pop Rocks Bubble Gum. And it was on sale!

Really, I thought to myself, it combines the best of all worlds: it is candy, it is gum, and it fizzes.

Hey -- no need to get supercilious. I don't need your smug attitude. Just because you prefer to satisfy your oral fixation snarffing down expensive yuppie ubermints overpackaged for your safety in tin mini-volvos. Me -- I was happy to find Pop Rocks Bubble Gum.

Plunking down the credit card, I paid my $.49 and before I had even left the confines of the store, the package had been discarded onto the floor and the entire packet was squirrelled away in my cheek.

I like to give Pop Rocks the wasabi treatment: put as much into my mouth as I can fit and see if I can keep my shit together while my head explodes.

So there I was on my way to the elevator, awaiting the pleasant sugarcoated climax (my own private Bikini), as the CO2 fission burned its way China-Syndromishly down my throat to where it was awaited eagerly by already-roiling lunch pizza.






[hey, fuck you, buddy. I'm tired. Find yourself a new drummer.]

Nothing at all happened. Nothing, that is, except utter failed-candy nastiness as only a confectionary engineer off the New Jersey Turnpike could concoct. A gross chemical foretaste. Sodden, soggy, pre-chewed gum granulets the consistancy of fish food slipping around among a few demoralized, halfheartedly fizzing (original) poprocks.

Suspecting, hoping rather, that perhaps there was some sort of time-delayed fuse built-in, I stepped onto the elevator where I found myself (wafting straberrily) amid several powerful-looking southern businessmen sporting glinting toupees. I stared at my reflection in one of the shinier hairpieces, hoping to catch a glimpse of my head exploding but...


It was a total letdown. I could have gotten the same faint fizzy feeling drinking a Vente cappucino and sitting under a fleuroescent lamp.

"What's with that guy, is he some kinda fey-get?" I heard someone say as I fled the elevator.

What the hell?

I want my money back.

I'm waiting for my afternoon break to go down to Rite-Aid, plunk down my credit card, and demand a refund.

Pop Rocks Bubble Gum indeed.

The sufferings of Chilean Wood voles hardly merit half the indignation of this most recent travesty.
Anybody catch all the punditspeak regarding Bush's recent visit to Russia? I won't bore you with the details. Ok, maybe I will. Basically, he went over there for the 60th Anneversary of the end of WWII in Europe. The Latvians, Lithuanians and Georgians boycotted the celebration because they are angry that their countries suffered under equally repressive Soviet rule after the end of Naziism. They also feel that their respective countries were "given" by the West to the Soviets at the Yalta agreement at the end of the war.

George Bush, with all of his infinite ability to oversimplify history, and his sincere wishes to keep both the Russians and their former satellites happy, took the opportunity to lambaste the West for giving the east bloc to the Soviets in an unconscionable surrender of "freedom", while also poking Putin in the eye over Russia's supposed recent reversal from democracy to dictatorship.

Whether he succeeded or not in "threading the needle" remains to be seen. Frankly, I don't much care.

I *do* care about the history of WWII, however, because its my job.

Where Bush got it wrong is by likening the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe to Chamberlain's infamous appeasement of Adolf Hitler prior to the war, and also the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Stalin and Hitler whereby Poland was divided between Germany and U.S.S.R. prior to the war. What happened at Yalta, among many other things, was the victorious allies (Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, DeGaulle, Stalin) met and carved Germany up into occupation zones (as well as Korea, incidentally, which sparked war five years later). Eastern Europe was supposed to have democratic elections but not be hostile to the U.S.S.R. Etc. Etc.

What really matters is that the U.S.S.R. already occupied all the territory they later turned into satellites. They had the largest army in the world, and, to put it bluntly: they were pissed off. They were spoiling for a fight. They had already utterly destroyed Eastern Europe -- burning, pillaging, raping, terrorizing everything in their path (with arguably less discrimination than the Germans). Option A, therefore, was to try to establish legal language to keep Eastern Europe free, while not seeming to make Russia more insecure.

Option B was for the Allies to stop shaking the hands of Russian troops in Germany and launch a new war against the U.S.S.R. to free the world from communism forever. This would have entailed use of nukes, and probably resulted in millions more casualties. A few U.S. generals (George Patton among them) advocated this position.

Thankfully, Option A was adopted. The devil resided in exactly *how* the details of this agreement would be implemented. The paradox in trying to establish truly democratic nations friendly to the USSR led to a little episode in history known as the "Cold War," in which the West's position gradually hardened toward the USSR's occupation of the territory it conquered.

So nobody appeased the Russians. Fighting the U.S.S.R. after World War Two was simply not a realistic option.

Bush's larger point was that instability in a democracy was better than appeasement of dictatorship is an arguable, but well taken point. The left has forever decried the stability proffered by such benevolent U.S.-backed dictators as Franco, Trujillo, Rhee, Mobuto Sese-Seko, and Pinochet, to name a few. However, his understanding of history regarding the end of World War II in Europe is oversimplified. But I guess oversimplification helps him justify our continued involvement in the teetering democracy in Iraq.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday, 3:33 p.m.
Time has been going interminably slow today. Outside, the weather is unseasonably cold and windy.Waiting for the elevator, the ordinarily bustling first floor lobby was dead silent. As if the whole universe had been sucked free of sound in preparation for one giant scream. Or perhaps just a cosmic yodel. Depends upon either Its mood, or your perspective, whatever that may be.When the elevator finally came, its doors opened...very...slowly with a rediculous, almost comical, squeaking sound.*squeak squeak* *squeak squeak*I felt like I was stuck in a Cohen Brothers flick, you know, Barton Fink or somesuch. Or like John Goodman's character 'Walter' in Big Lebowski, yelling: HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE CRAZY? (Walter is the literalist of the flick -- the non-dreamer, the anti-Lebowski, who is so unflexible in applying 'the rules' that he himself becomes totally unhinged).Upstairs I had a conversation in the bathroom with a co-worker:"I guess you heard about Sgt. X from upstairs," he said."No.""His son got electrocuted today.""Dead?""He's dead.""Wow. That's terrible.""Yes, it is. Terrible."Then back in the hallway as quiet as a library in a tomb.Waiting waiting.*squeak squeak* *squeak squeak*Back to the dead grey cube and nothing much to do and time creeping by.Lucky me.Truly.Electrocuted?I guess its good to have things put into perspective from time to time.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I hope everybody out there is keeping an eye on the silliness that is coming out of Kansas this week. Apparently Christian Fundamentalist whack-jobs are trying to fight the existence of evolution in textbooks. Is it just me, or didn't we lay their pitiful "intelligent" design arguments to rest during, say, the Enlightenment? Or after that guy called Darwin wrote his little pamphlet? Or after we discovered carbon dating? Or after we had the Scopes Monkey Trial?

There used to be a theory called the "watchmaker" or "clockmaker" theory that said, basically, "the universe is as complex as a clock. Since clocks can't make themselves, the Universe must have been created by the Christian God of Jonah and Jesus as described in the Bible and all you Jews, faggots and liberals will burn for all of eternity because our all-loving, all-forgiving, God will punish you forever for doubting Him." [paraphrase]

Rather than sputter and rant my way through a post refuting and admonishing the idiocy of using "Intelligent" Design as a justification for teaching Christian mythology to kids, here is an article that does it much better.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Howdy, all.

You don't know it, but this is actually the third post I've written this week.

The first one I scribbled out cracked me up and I'm sorry you won't get a chance to read it. It fell prey to the "time out" feature of American University's network (note: not sure if it was an *intentional* time out or not, it just happened.) I hit "publish" and got some sort of error message & the post was gone. *poof*

The second one was a halfassed attempt to reconstruct the first one, but I lost my fire and it died a quick death.

What to blog about, then? Well...

\begin rant
I pissed my boss off at work again yesterday. Just [metaphorically] reached across the meeting-room and went *poke* into her hypersensitive gut. Just to see if either of us was really there. I discovered, to my surprise, that I was. How I got there, I do not know. How long I remain there remains to be seen.

The gyst of my non-literal poke was some sort of comment to the effect that, well, let me give you a backstory first:

I am not a federal worker.
I do not get paid through any ordinary federal channel.
What I am is a research fellow which, under the terms spelled out very clearly in the language of my contract (mandated by the IRS), I am not supposed to be directly supervised by anyone. I'm on my own. Solo. Conducting my own research.

In reality, what happens is I report to work, shuffle to my cube, open my government email, wear my government badge, go to government meetings, do the government's bidding, and basically get treated lower than the lowest government scum with no health benefits, no tax money taken out of my check, and no credit toward that golden retirement package that all GS workers strive toward. So basically, my fellowship is a fraud designed to bring in low-cost temp labor in order to enable the DoD to maintain its current, bloated budget levels which it needs to continue running utterly incompetent, impotent, and hopelessly pointless 'policy' offices like the P.O.W. Office (which I in theory do not work for). And, of course, to continue to send large numbers of appointees, contractors, and military folk on top-secret whorring expeditions in Southeast Asia.

So my non-boss in my non-federal job has been steadily assimilating us very borg-like into the federal beurocracy by, first, requiring us to adhere to federal sick & vacation policies. No real problem there (they are reasonably generaous). But in order to obtain time, we have to fill out a complicated Federal form which doesn't (and can't) get approval from anyone since we aren't in the 'system'.

Her rationale for this form-filling behavior:
"Its just practice so if you ever get a federal job you'll know what to do."

Ok, fine. Practice. Whatever. (Should I also practice sucking my own cock at my cube in case my neck ever grows three feet in one day?)

Next she piled on a report whereby us advanced researchers, who spend a vast amount of time at area archivecs, are monthly required to -- get this -- count the number of file boxes we go through at the National Archives, and count the number of things we write in a month, and count the number of changes we make to a database we keep. Now, I know that many of you are not professional researchers, but hopefully this concept strikes you as off-kilter. Research is, by its very nature, something that cannot be quantified in this manner. Sometimes you spend all day staring at three pieces of paper, sometimes you spend ten minutes blowing through 5000 pieces of paper. Sometimes you work and find absolutely nothing of value whatsoever. Etc. Needless to say, we are entirely unable to count our work in this manner and (well known to our supervisors) are forced to guess every time we submit this report. Which makes it worse than useless. And why do we have to submit this?

"Just in case anybody upstairs [in the rest of the non-working, dysfunctional] organization ever asks for it."

Here's how much sense this type of scheme makes [Clay sails counts on his fingers]: 0

She's always very apologetic about this kind of shit. She's sorry, but its someone else's fault she has to foist idiotic hairbrained 'management' schemes on us.

So after the monthly report, she decided that she wanted more. Suddenly, we had to submit weekly reports of our activities. Just so people upstairs could have an idea of what we're doing. Because of course they couldn't be bothered to come find out for themselves. If they ever did, my boss would assume it was some sort of threat to her position and get worked up about it.

Anyway, yesterday we were asked to begin filling out a bi-weekly timecard in addition to our weekly and monthly progress reports. My boss said it was quite a hassle to fill out these timecards, but she wanted us to "have practice in case we were ever forced to fill them out in the Federal System."

I made a comment to the effect that it made no sense to do one pain in the ass thing in order to prepare us for some future occasion when we might have to do another pain in the ass thing.

What I said made perfect sense.

But not to her.

To her, if somebody fills a form out, it becomes somehow *real* and *important*. It becomes measurable. A report can be generated to describe it. That report can justify next years budget. Next years budget will allow people to figure out new ways to count [non] progress. And the beurocracy feeds on itself, paradoxically growing larger in the process.

\end rant

I immediately had to pencil all these thoughts down in my meeting, which resembled a predictably prison-like (albeit abstract) cube. Kinda like my office. To humanize the thing, I drew my stock-cartoon picture of a guy with his tongue lolling out. Got in trouble for that, too. Someday, when I bring this blog into the 21st century, I'll post an image of that guy.

Anyway, my boss: She's much too passive-aggressive to respond directly, but I'm sure there will be some wierd ramifications later.

Or maybe I'll get fired outright. Oh wait, I can't get fired because I don't work for anyone but myself. Details. No, for blogging this they'll hustle me to some even darker, grimmer, cubicle-filled hole beneath the earth. That's what free speech gets you.

Well, fuck it.

Free speech: use it or lose it (I always say).

\really end rant, I promise\