Job, My Stupid

The Goo Is In The Mail

One of the projects I’ve been working on at the ol’ clinical trials statistical lab is a little thing called “Specimen Tracking.”

No, I am not stalking piss-bearing nurses around making sure that they’re delivering the little warm bottles to the right places, though that sounds fun. For many of our cancer research trials, we require certain specimens (blood, bone marrow, eyeballs) to be sent from the patient’s hospital to various labs, where they will do mysterious things, like pathological verification of the disease, or some genetic assay mumbo-jumbo, or whatever. For all I know, they play hacky-sack with the fucking things and then make up outrageous lies. “I need the path review results for patient number 1150062!” “Uh . . . right, I’ll look that up. Here it is. Yeah, this patient was confirmed with scalar cell fuctating baloonganoma.(Sounds of muffled laughter, bong hit.)”

Anyway, the specimen tracking project is a web-based system of logging where all the little damn hunks of people are going and when; sort of like the USPS tracking system, only hopefully better, as recently the USPS tracking system informed me that a package of mine from Amazon had “left Fernley NV” and had “entered US.” What a relief. I hope there’s a commenting system for humorous outlet. Like the time a nurse shipped me several glass slides by slipping them into a normal business envelope and then tossing it into the mailbox. It would be helpful to note little gaffes like that: “Specimen inadequate due to vast, jaw-dropping institutional incompetence. Recommend napalm strike.”

Institutions are required to send lots of stuff various places, so it’s actually understandable that occasionally there’s a mixup. Not that the mixups aren’t frequently horrible and scarring. For a long time, I was in charge of receiving RT materials: that is, x-ray and CT scan films, which were actually pretty interesting. Cross-sections of the human body can look awfully cool, provided they aren’t, you know, yours. What wasn’t cool the day an institution sent along a bunch of films and also enclosed the poloroids that they often take of the patients to show where the fields of radiation therapy are on the body. This was a rectal cancer study. I held in my hands many photos of afflicted, radiation-treated, angry asses, and I thought, “If this is all a part of someone’s grand universal plan, I’d like to have a word with them.”

Audio Club

Lyric Poetry

Yesterday the fiancee picked me up from work, and we were driving home, the radio playing. Suddenly Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” started up, and I of course was mindlessly singing along, when I suddenly thought, “These are the dumbest lyrics ever.” Look:

Take your baby by the hair

And pull her close and there there there

Take your baby by the ears

And play upon her darkest fears

What? Oh, well. I’m nothing if not agreeable, so I did in fact grab my fiancee by the ears and then poured a cupful of live spiders down her shirt. Well, in my mind I did. But there’s more:

So take your baby by the wrist

And in her mouth an amethyst

Hot damn! So I released her ears and pried open the fiancee’s jaws. Jackpot! A shiny amethyst! I knew I had me a great gal.

Of course, these are not actually the stupidest lyrics ever. They’re just pretty damn stupid. The worst lyrics ever is of course going to be a pretty subjective topic, and everyone will have their own opinion. While thinking about this, I rejected the obvious choices, like Alanis Morrissette or (as was suggested to me) Leonard Nimoy just because their lyrics are so obviously witless and bad. I also passed over things like “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”–which I consider to be the most heinous song ever perpetrated on an innocent public–as well as skull-clutchers like the entire oeuvre of the Indigo Girls. So it’s all kind of arbitrary, but I just thought for a while about the relative terribleness of certain song lyrics that I think have gone unremarked on.

But before I leave off the Wanging Chungers, I do want to point out that I found a fucking great Mondegreen that someone had about that song. Someone posted somewhere that they had always heard the lyrics this way:

Take your baby by the ears,

and play upon her doggie spheres

Which is, you know, the best thing ever; it’s going onto my tombstone to baffle untold later generations. It’s like something out of the i ching.

Anyway. So I just was kind of free-associating with the idea of bad lyrics, when I remembered an old song from college days by that deathless old bastard Malcolm McLaren called, wrenchingly, “Something’s Jumpin’ in Your Shirt.” McLaren at his most winsomely affecting, don’t you think? Check out the lyrics:

No matter what I do, no matter what I say

My t-shirt’s changed since yesterday

I look into the mirror and my t-shirt’s got a mark

I guess it’s just because my life is falling apart

But I felt something hurting

And a boy said,

There’s somethin jumpin!

Jumpin in my shirt

Something’s jumpin, jumpin in your shirt

Something’s jumpin, does it really hurt?

Something’s jumpin, my hearts on red alert

Walk the body! Walk the body!

Oh my god! It’s like . . . Faulkner! I really, really like the t-shirt-as-life-barometer or whatever the hell it means. These lyrics are so awful, they really just make me very happy. Walk the body! Okay! I don’t even know what the fuck that means, but I’ll try it! Something’s jumpin’ in your shirt! Is it your heart? No, I think it’s clear that we’re talking about boobs. God, what a great, great bunch of horrible lyrics.

But that’s a pretty obscure song. How about MOR mainstay Toto? They had a pretty big hit with the chugging, faceless “Africa.” Read on!

I hear the drums echoing tonight

But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation

She’s coming in 12:30 flight

The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation

I stopped an old man along the way,

Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies

He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”

That’s not so bad. I mean, it’s insipid and meaningless, but not the worst ever, though you can see where Mr. Mister was getting inspiration from. It makes no sense, of course: if she’s flying in, why are the moonlit wings reflecting the stars guiding him towards salvation? Or is he on the plane? Is that where he stopped the old man “along the way?” Never mind, no time! Hurry, boy!

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

I bless the rains down in Africa

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The wild dogs cry out in the night

As they grow restless longing for some solitary company

I know that I must do what’s right

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

Oh, what dizzying poetic heights! I particularly like the total creative surrender implied in the “hundred men or more” line. Hmmm . . . what’s a big, big number? More than a hundred! Brilliant. What the fuck do the rains in Africa have to do with anything anyway, and why would you bless them? All you’re doing is irritating those wild dogs (huh?), restless for whatever “solitary company” could possibly be. I’d be restless too. But the final line brings it all home. You know what a beautiful mountain is like? Another mountain.

I know I’m not exactly going after big game here, but hey, like I said, I’ve just been brain-dumping. But I must say, it’s time to bring out the big one; I’ve been waiting to find something that competes with the next song in terms of sheer fucking awfulness. It so clearly shoots for straight-faced Bukowskian hard-knuckle poeticality, and so spectacularly fails, I really find it kind of breathtaking. It’s worth quoting the entire mind-ripping thing, starting with the ass-tastic title. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the lyrics of Live:

“Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe”

my brother kicked his feet to sleep

my brother kicked his feet to sleep

my brother kicked his feet to sleep

and i sang the dirge song

my brother never missed a beat

my brother kicked his feet to sleep, sweet feet

my brother kicked his feet to sleep

and i sang the dirge song

Angel, don’t you have some bagels in my oven?

Lady, don’t you know a man when you see one?

Crazy lady with the shiny shoes, where are you?

Kick you feet and calm the space that makes

you hollow

little swami’s got his bowl to eat

little swami always walks his beat, sweet feet

little swami’s got his bowl to eat

and i sing the dirge song

it’s amazing how they come to see

the little swami with his bowl to eat, sweet feet

the little swami only wears a sheet

and won’t sing the dirge song

anal, tight-assed soldier with that dogged heart

put down your gun

we are ready to explode, we gotta take it smart

and take it slow

Holy fucking good golly! Sing the “dirge song,” brother! I don’t know what other kind of dirges there are, but oh well! Not that anything in there makes any fucking sense at all anyway! “Angel, don’t you have some bagels in my oven?” I think we’ve all asked this at least once in our lives.

I mean . . . jesus. I really don’t know what to do with all that. What’s the cross-reference foot fetish going on with his brother and the hungry swami? Who’s the poor soldier that gets sucker-punched at the end with the anal stuff? Maybe he should have kicked the space that made him hollow.

I fold. I mean, I just can’t do any better than what Live has already done. I take my baby by the wrist. I sing the dirge song. Where have all the cowboys gone?


Visual Club

The TV Party

By Harold Pinter.

Skot sits facing a television. It plays advertisements. Skot lights a match and watches it burn.

TV: We’ll tell you how the flooding can affect your commute.

S: I live on a hill in an urban center. I walk to work.

TV: Be prepared for the Romulans.

S: I always am.

TV: Q13 Fox shows you the latest ads to get you to go see the Mariners in action.

S: They do, and I almost always resist.

TV: What does Boonie think?

S: I guess he’s disappointed in me.


S: Rats.

TV: Foster Farms Chicken.

S: Chicken is good too.

TV: That, my friend, is the sweet smell of Windex.

S: Uuuuuuuuuuuhh.

TV: Somebody hasn’t discovered the new Metamucil.

S: Please.

TV: You can enjoy eggs without the cholesterol.

S: Please.

TV: Inspector Gadget is back with even more gadgets.

S: You’re making me sick. My fiancee will be worried.

TV: Dont trip! U luv her?

S: Of course.

TV: This mother’s day, why not show her you care?

S: Mother’s Day?

TV: Give someone special the night off.

S: I’ll try.

TV: Foster Farms Chicken.

S: I’ll try.

TV: You can enjoy eggs without the cholesterol.

S: I wanted–I wanted–I wanted–

TV: Which came first?

S: She wanted–

TV: Chicken?

S: I–

TV: Egg?

S: I–

TV: Which came first? Which came first? Which came first?

Skot screams.

TV: Do you know your own face?

Silence. He is crouched in the chair.

S: It was a lovely party tonight.

TV: You were the belle of the ball.

S: I was?

TV: Oh yes.

S: Oh, it’s true. I was. (Pause.) I know I was.


Steak 'n' Shake

Flow My Tears, The 12-Ounce Can Said

I know it’s generally a lame joke pertinent to pregnant women, but everyone now and then gets food cravings. The thing is, many of mine are recurrent; worse, some of them are totally perverse and shameful. This is fine for kids; kids are supposed to act in perverse ways (though not shameful–that’s for the parents). For a while when I was about three, for instance, I craved nothing more than raw butter. My parents would find me in the kitchen gnawing happily on a stick of butter, and then of course they would hurl me into the dark basement as punishment, which was fantastic for me, because that’s where they stored the potatoes, my other weird, awful craving: raw potatoes. I’m not kidding (except about the basement-punishment, of course); I loved me some raw potatoes. Fortunately, none of these had any lasting power, of course, and I grew out of them in due course. Also fortunately, I also grew out of most of my unfortunate dietary obsessions, such as, for example, my preteen penchant for peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches. (For years I ate these noxious things, until one day I hit upon the brilliant idea of peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches. Further proof that children are horrible, freakish little goblins who should be bound in shrink-wrap and kept immobile until the age of eighteen.)

There is one thing I didn’t quite grow out of, at least not totally; almost but not quite, and it fills me with horror to even confess this, but: Spaghetti-Os. I don’t know what to say about this, except that there is evidently some tiny, unkillable node somewhere in my brain that every now and then raises itself from its torpor and barfs up some synaptic whatsis that generates a bunch of electrochemical holy-fuck all over the goddamn place until finally my brain gets it and throws up its cerebrospinal hands and yells, “Jesus, fuck and Liberace, we have to buy Spaghetti-Os again.” I don’t know why, and it’s horrible. Maybe some reptilian olfactory voodoo that’s sitting in my cortex gets all sentimental over this shit, but it drives me crazy; every now and then (maybe every year or two), I get this violent, deep urge to eat some Spaghetti-Os, and I battle with it, knowing that I’m doomed, I’m going to cave in, but maybe this time . . .

No, fuck it, of course I’m not going to win, and I have to go buy Spaghetti-Os. I do this even knowing what a cruel, vicious letdown the experience is going to be in the end; it doesn’t matter. It’s nearly publishable fucking proof of determinism, quite a feat in today’s world of quantum sleight of hand, but there you go: Spaghetti-Os are particles more fundamental than quarks. Fuck you, Murray Gell-Mann.

So inevitably I find myself, a grown man, trudging desolately to the supermarket to buy my stinking can of Spaghetti-Os. You have no idea how embarrassing this is for me, and I don’t make it any easier on myself either, because I’m so psychically shattered by the whole debacle, I don’t even possess the wherewithal to conceal or even mitigate my terrible purchase. I could hide the can inobtrusively amongst a bunch of other groceries, or perhaps kidnap an errant child off the street and force him at knifepoint to pretend to be my offspring, and isn’t it cute how the little scamp loves his Spaghetti-Os? (Smile for the nice checkout lady, or it’s curtains for you and Mr. Boo-Bear.) No, not me: dazed with sad horror over my state and filled with foreboding at my upcoming culinary Waterloo, I generally just shuffle over to the ghoulishly merry wall o’ canned goods, select one solitary can of Spaghetti-Os (with Meatballs! It’s IMPORTANT!), and wander unsteadily to the checkout line and plunk my sad, lonely freight down onto the conveyor belt. What a picture: a beaten, flutter-eyed guy, obviously single and given to gloomy bouts of cheerless masturbation, purchasing his one measly can of Spaghetti-Os, probably bought with the last couple bucks left from his long day of giving plasma down at the blood bank. At least, that’s how I feel. Then I scuttle home with my awful booty, and the real fun begins.

Of course, it’s all free-fall from here on out. I break out the can opener and skreek off the top of the can, and that smell fills the room; I am instantly at war with myself. My kidhood nostalgia (what a great smell!) wages a pitched battle with my adult rational mind (what an unholy reek! please don’t eat anything that smells like that!), but events that have been set in motion are now unstoppable, no matter their violence to reason and judgment. I dump the radioactive wobbly cylinder of jack-o-lantern colored sludge into a pan, where it slumps morosely. A mushy orb of near-meat detaches itself from the mass and makes a break for it, only to bump sadly up against the side of the pan, where it stares up at me helplessly, beaten and afraid. “I’m sorry too,” I whisper, and turn the heat up. Presently, the mass has settled into a dire puddle of sauce and broken pasta rings and meat-lumps, and it bubbles wanly.

I dump it into a bowl and eat it. That’s all, I just eat it, like an automaton, blank-eyed and efficient. It tastes, I hardly have to point out, like it came from some joyless, gray kitchen manned by Strindbergian vampire chefs who evilly suck all the nutrients and decent flavor out of their dishes and then serve them to their doomed, emaciated guests. It’s over. I feel vague relief, coupled with a sense of disappointment that yet again, I’ve lost another battle. The eerie taste-not-a-taste coats my mouth, and will for days. But the important thing is, it’s over.

For now. Reset the clock.

Audio Club

The Sounds of Violence

Saturday night, a friend celebrated her . . . mumble . . . something-or-other birthday, so we did what actors tragically often do: we gathered at a bar and performed the ancient ceremony known as karaoke. Different people have different reactions to this activity, usually ranging from “I want that person singing to burn to death right now,” all the way to “I want everyone else in the world to burn to death right now.” I understand. My own position is, “Singing in public is a scrotum-tightening ordeal of sheerest panic not unlike being attacked by rabid knife-brandishing gibbons.”

But you have to understand that it’s a little different going out with a bunch of actors (if you haven’t already, in which case, you should do so if only as a bold anthropological experiment). Actors are, famously and correctly, known for characteristics like deranged binge-drinking; an almost pathological lack of shame; a desperate craving for attention, even of the most negative sort, which is unfortunately at odds with a gnawing fear that at any given moment, someone somewhere nearby is being slightly more entertaining than themselves; and finally, in some remarkable cases, actual singing talent. That last trait is of course subjective when brought to bear on karaoke, whose arrangements of any given song have been anesthetized, splayed open, gutted with a baling hook, filled back up with chewed cardboard, and then hastily half-revived and sent reeling back out into the world. Karaoke arrangements are like Gorey’s doomed tatterdemalions: wan, utterly without hope, and about five seconds away from an awful death.

There are ways to deal with all this. Some actors are wonderful; their voices are perfect, and they rise above the insipid tripe oozing from the speakers behind them; they perform the song. But there are other people who take a different tack: they attack the song as if it had punched their kid sister in the face, and destroy it utterly. These are the people to be feared and locked cages and poked with sticks until science finds a way to understand them and then fuck with their brains cruelly, Clockwork Orange style, so they may one day be stopped.

Guess which group I’m writing about? There were some lovely performances that night, I’m sure, but their memories have been destroyed by the following people, all of whom I am, I should add, very fond of. Lest it seem otherwise.

First out of the gate on Saturday was T., who, evidently feeling that the world wasn’t quite Hobbesian enough for his liking, lit into an eye-popping rendition of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” It actually started out okay, which is to say as okay as conceivably possible, for about four lines, when he mystifyingly substituted “karate” for “karama” in the lyrics, and then started stalking the tiny stage making frightening karate moves, kicking the air and leaping around like a frog on a hot plate. Since T. is about nine feet tall and ganglier-than-thou, he looked an awful lot like the muppet Animal after a thorough macing. He continued singing, exhorting everyone to madly karate “ALL! NIGHT! LONG!” and, because the rest of us have a tender spot for such awful things, we sang along. By the end, he had an awful lot of people in the bar staring into their drinks, wondering what fiendish thing had been slipped in there by the clearly malevolent bar staff.

Not long after this fearful spectacle came C., who ominously prefaced his performance with a suspiciously sincere bit of spoken dribble: “This song is about America.” Then the dire plonking strains of Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise,” started polluting the air, and C. whipped his vocal cords into a frenzied yelping that approximated human noise. C. paid very little attention to the actual melody–itself a mixed blessing–and opted instead for the Kamikaze approach: he’d lift his voice up into a stratospheric whoop and then come divebombing down in a murderous assault on the helpless notes lying far below, which burst into flames and screamed piteously and C. shot past them straight into the ground. Occasionally, he would totally unneccessarily howl, “This song is about homelessness!” Actually, the way C. performed it, it could have been about autocannibalism or cataclysmic viral spread.

Not long after C. finished his clumsy autopsy on Mr. Collins’ pithy social ruminations came the birthday girl, V. V. is one of the masters of this art form I’ve described, and I can honestly say that on one past occasion, her grim chemical-peel version of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” lifted me to another plane of existence; it was so otherworldly and horrific, it had me holding my sides laughing, otherwise I would have surely rushed the stage and impaled her on many forks. On this night too, she was mining the 80s, with her frontal assault on Pat Benetar’s interminable “Love is a Battlefield.” You knew where she was going almost immediately with the initial “Whoooaaoooaaaooo” banshee wail, because she already sounded like Diamanda Galas stuck in a taffy puller. V. continued along in this vein, paying absolutely no heed to the song’s meter or rhythm, instead opting for a kind of Paul Harvey vs. Eric Bogosian dramatic interpretation: “Heartache to heartache . . . . . . . . . . WESTAND!” Her eyes bulging like Don Rickles undergoing electrotherapy. In the audience, the drinking rate redoubled itself, and the regulars in the bar were looking decidedly twitchy and haunted, like sentient lab rats, aware of their fate, but unable to do anything about it.

The last one I remember, however, is K. K. is also legendary for his talent for eviscerating perfectly good songs, though he didn’t pick one on Saturday. No, again Mr. Phil Collins was selected for the old artistic cornholing, this time “Against All Odds,” which, for terrible reasons known only to himself, K. began singing with the most offensively ridiculous and overblown Cajun accent imaginable. “Teee-aa-iike a lwoook a-et me NYAA-OOWWW!” he bleated, clutching the mic in both hands, eyes closed and head thrown back as if delivering the finest of gospel standards. “Thyeeeh’s juzz’an EEE-OOMPTY SPYUZZ!” It was just ghoulish, the aural equivalent of diving into a swimming pool filled with dead dogs.

There was more that night, but those are certainly the highlights of horridly good fun. We had predictably emptied most of the rest of the bar by the time I left, and they weren’t even done yet. So there’s an idea of what you can expect if you go out singing karaoke with actors, or at least actors who are my friends, who are all troublingly disturbed individuals, and who wants it any other way?

Visual Club

Look Away, Look Away

So there’s apparently a movie called Irreversible coming out now making the outrage-rounds. You see, it apparently features a very graphic anal rape scene. And it’s nine minutes long. Nine. Minutes. Are you very surprised to learn that it’s a French movie?

Now honestly. There’s no fucking hope in hell that I’m going to willingly watch a movie knowing that for nine endless woe-washed minutes, I will be watching an anal rape scene. I’m just not; fuck that, if I want to immerse myself in hopeless anguish, I can always watch Emeril. I can’t get over it. Nine minutes is an eternity of screen time.

Someone once tried to make the argument with me regarding the immortal Caligula that the “what the–?” out-of-nowhere X-rated sex scenes were an experiment in confronting the viewer with how much they could take; forcing them to understand their own mental limitations. Or something. So I watched the movie, and afterwards I was all, “Uh, dude. That’s just porn.” I mean, fine, watch porn if you want, but let’s not gloss it over with any bullshit.

And frankly, even the idea of commiting a graphic rape scene to film is one thing, but to stretch it out to nine minutes just strikes me as a cruel device, just rubbing the viewer’s face in it because . . . I don’t know why because. Because someone could? That’s not good enough for me. And I don’t wanna come across all shrill and dumb and bluenosy; I’m not saying don’t go see it, or it should be banned, or anything of the sort. I’m just saying why I’m not seeing it. I don’t see how it’s anything other than nasty and cynical and almost worst of all, probably totally unneccessary to the film overall.

But as I pointed out, I haven’t seen the film. Knock wood.

I’m waiting for The Core. Now that’s going to be some horrible, insulting filmmaking I can really enjoy!

Terra Cognita

Streets of Fire (Sale)

I’ve been living in Seattle for over ten years now, in fact in the same neighborhood the entire time: Capitol Hill. It’s well known around Seattle that Capitol Hill is the artsy, boho-ish, gay-friendly area, so it’s naturally full of local color and about nine hundred thousand hoboes, each of which hits me up for change on my way home every day. Broadway is kind of the acknowledged main drag (ahem), and if I have only one problem with it, it’s this: it’s going straight to fucking hell right before my eyes.

Take the Broadway Market. The Broadway Market is a mall that’s not really a mall, more kind of just a dinky mall-let with more character and a nice public space in the middle where people of all ages and all manner of metal shit lodged in their bodies come to hang out, drink coffee, and make fun of the unhip straights like me. It’s cool. Upstairs years ago there used to be a funky bar/restaurant called Hamburger Mary’s which has since moved to a different location, where it died a horrible death, and was replaced by another bar, which is undergoing a horrible death, pretty clearly, because nobody ever goes there for mysterious reasons perhaps having to do with a gypsy curse or something. Anyway, when I worked at my horrendous retail job in the Broadway Market, we would of course go upstairs to get drinks there, but then when Hamburger Mary’s left, it was replaced by an intolerable Mexican joint whose margaritas tasted like transmission fluid, so nobody went there any more, and now it’s a fucking health club. Part of me dies when a health club replaces a former bar spot, but maybe that’s just my liver sparking out a twinge of hope.

Downstairs in the Broadway Market, they just lost a big anchor store when the Gap moved out. This leaves me really fucked, as I now have no convenient place to purchase my bland, monochromatic clothing. I need solid colors! I can’t dress myself otherwise! But the real question here is: how does one of the ostensibly hippest shopping centers in town, located in the midst of a huge gay population, with tons of foot traffic lose the Gap? It’s insane; it would be like a head shop going out of business in downtown Eugene. It doesn’t make any fucking sense. The Market is looking pretty gutted, and there’s more on their way out; a funky African store is taking off, and the snooty sandwich shop inside folded too. Now it’s not that I feel warm fuzzies for any of these particular places of business, but I liked them a whole lot better than, oh, nothing, which is what’s shaping up to replace them. About the only thing in there clearly still doing a jumping bit of business is the liquor store, and why not? Everyone on Broadway is drinking themselves stupid while they watch their neighborhood dissolve into something out of Escape from New York. Only instead of Kurt Russell, it’ll be Jane Russell, except this Jane Russell is a man in drag, and instead of subhuman CHUDS, there’ll be loser punker kids spare-changing in front of empty store fronts. Othewise exactly the same.

Down the road a bit, there’s another bar that croaked itself after being in business for around ten minutes–Jack’s Roadhouse–and since it failed as a bar, the new tenants are cleverly resurrecting it as another bar, this time an Irish Public House sort of deal. We’ll see. Across the street, the great old indie record store that closed down a while back and then turned into sleeker record store that almost immediately gorked out is trying to become a funky shoe store. They’re doomed. And down from them is the space where–RIP–Fallout Records used to be, home for about a million years to punk records, punk regalia, punk comics, and, occasionally and improbably, since the place was about as big and comely as a grimy phone booth, punk bands. It cheered my heart walking home some days to stroll by and be suddenly leveled by the sheer noise emanating from their store, while the neighboring shopowners glared and calculated arson prison sentence negotiations in their heads. It always sounded like some pub band had fallen en masse into a huge wood chipper.

It’s all just depressing, and I hope the place recovers before it gets worse. I might do my part and go out and get a drink at one of my default bars on Broadway. There’s a nice little Asian joint right around the corner. You know the place. It’s next to Jimmy Woo’s Jade Pagoda, one of the most legendary places of magic in town, a wellspring of timeless booze mojo. Cheapest drinks around; clientele looking like they were born in there, years ago, sprouting up from the carpet mold; a jukebox that really has “It’s Raining Men” on it; and of course the alleged food that they never serve to anyone because every person I know is terrified to try it, even in the most gravely drunken desperate state. That’s the place.

It’s closing soon.

Our Wacky Government

Think In Prose, Hear The Music, Shit My Pants

As my nineteen regular readers have probably figured out by now, I don’t do a lot of writing about politics. There’s a good reason for this: I’m not very politically inclined. I mean, I’m your average mook, on the lefty side of things, I have a general grasp of most issues, but beyond that, meh. Besides, the current political tenor in this country mostly inspires in me a deep, screaming terror that makes me want gulp down vast quantities of Xanax and watch porn flicks all day in a kind of narcotized whackathon of sheerest denial. However, it’s really hard to get paid to do that sort of thing, unless you are Marlon Brando.

But the other day, I read–well, scanned . . . well . . . flung to the ground–an article in The Atlantic Monthly that purported to be an examination into the mind of George W. Bush. It is deeply stupid and makes virtually no bones about its own rah-rah bias towards our President; it is, in fact, such a naked, ass-up, lube-at-the-ready valentine that one wonders why at the end the author doesn’t beseech the administration for at least a courteous reach-around. This from the same magazine that published a po-faced article a while back similarly purporting to be an examination of the mind, habits, and fuck, I don’t know, bathroom fixture preferences of Saddam Hussein. It was similarly filled with portentous and utterly unverifiable claims as to what Saddam thinks and does and what he likes to eat and the various deep thoughts he deep thinks during the day; in other words: bullshit. The author could have claimed that Saddam enjoys wearing rubber boots and pounding finches to death with golden hammers while listening to Blondie; who’s going to argue? You?

Anyway. The article pissed me off (but it does have some great howlers in it, like this early on: “[Bush’s] two most obvious personal traits are humor and seriousness.” They are? And who doesn’t possess these obvious traits? Okay, Marlon Brando again, you got me). So I figured I’d take another look at it. And just so we’re clear, I repeat: I have no intention of being fair, nuanced, judicious, rational, or thorough. It’s just not my style. In fact, just for fun, I’m going to pack it full of malicious lies. See if you can spot them!

It starts off with some of the usual introductory hoo-ha about where Bush started out, and how he fumbled his way into the presidency: Harvard Business School, governor of Texas, etc., and some discreet obligatory mentions about his hard-drinking days and subsequent Jesus-locating. That’s cool. I don’t have any problem with the J-folk. It is fun to learn that (as an example of his crazy humor) that Bush teases Condi Rice by calling her a “mother hen;” it’s even better when he quotes former head of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed as saying, “I’d fuck dead goats for that man.” Reed, who knew Bush during the taxing Texas Rangers years, was also apparently struck by how “focused” and “disciplined” Bush was as governor. So it’s kind of unfortunate to read the next sentence: “The governorship of Texas, however, scarcely allows those to hold it to get much done otherwise.” Well, if you’re going to be focused and disciplined, you might as well be doing nothing at all.

Then the author (Richard Brookhiser, senior editor at National Review) gets down to brass tacks and enumerates the “traits he has shown and the factors he pays attention to” since assuming office. They are:

“Thriftiness with time.” Uh, does he even have a choice? He’s President! I’m not really that grooved out that he manages to make his meetings run “briskly,” as if other administrations took time out of difficult policy sessions to unwind over a relaxing game of Uno. Let’s talk Clinton when it comes for thriftiness with time. “Hey, lover, you want to go into a broom closet? I think I know where Harding’s is.” “No time! Blow me right here! And no slurping! I’m on a call!”

“The team.” Well, this isn’t exactly a trait or anything, but whatever. Brookhiser spends a little ink lauding the staff for their closed-mouthedness, which I of course uncharitably prefer to think of as “stark terror.” Would you be inclined to shoot off your mouth with people like Torquemada Donald Rumsfeld creeping around, ready to set fire to your children’s feet if he didn’t like something you said? Or Dick Cheney, who in stressful times is given to pulling his incredible heart right out of his chest and holding it in his hand, while fixing his poor victim with a steely gaze and intoning “I keep this beating by pure force of will. You are an insignificant stack of worthless paste.” Or, worst of all, Bush could always sit you down in a closed room with Ari Fleischer and make you listen to him, a Boschian nightmare too outre and frightening to contemplate for any amount of time.

“Q&L.” That is, “Questioning and Listening.” Notably missing in that set of activities is “Comprehending,” but it’s nice to listen to people. Brookhiser then goes on to cite this uncanny ability to listen to other people in the context of the stem-cell research debate, a topic that I had better not get too wrapped up in, or I’ll just fucking burst into flames, so I’ll just note that Bush effectively shut down government funding of the research, citing the J-Man and His Pop (a sort of divine Q&L). Here’s Brookhiser’s flinty-eyed assessment of the performance: “Another President might have ducked the problem by following the emerging consensus of the country, or of his own base. Bush handled it like a manager–staffing it out and then making his own decision.” I’m entering this usage into my own lexicon. “Say, you really handled that like a manager.” “What?” “I don’t know.”

” ‘Instinct.’ ” This one is fucking great. “Almost everyone calls Bush an instinctive decision-maker, including Bush himself.” Oh? Who, exactly? Four paragraphs later, you discover that “almost everyone” is, in fact, Newt Gingrich, an assessment that Newt would probably enthusiastically endorse. Newt cracked me up here, though, I must admit, because he really delivers the straight lines: “[Bush] hs a very wide repertoire of experiences [like snorting cocaine off the backs of strippers].” And in new situations or encounters, sez Newt, “he cues off things he probably doesn’t even remember.” You know, I’ve done this; I recall the sensation as “Oh, God, What Did I Do Last Night?” And then I cued myself off of things I didn’t even remember, like where am I and who is this in bed with me?

“Providence.” This one is puzzling. During one of the 2000 debates, some of the Republican candidates were asked to pick an important political philosopher from whom each person got his particular swerve on. Steve “Glint O’ Crazy” Forbes named John Locke. Bush was next, and he mysteriously said “Sondra Locke,” and then praised her performance in Bronco Billy as “fucking hot.” The networks confusedly cut to a commercial, except for FOX, which instead simply showed some footage of Sondra Locke spare-changing on Sepulveda Boulevard.

“Follow-through.” Brookhiser uses the example Bush’s withdrawal from the ABM treaty to bolster his argument, I guess, that Bush . . . follows through . . . on things. It’s really tedious, as are any assortment of words that contain the name “Paul Wolfowitz.” When I can’t sleep at night, I usually count Paul Wolfowitzes leaping over meadow fences and then landing on an array of poisoned spikes, and it really works well.

Finally, after this litany of gee-whillikers shit, Brookhiser concedes to at least a hat-tip of balance, and enumerates three–three!–limitiations. He also tellingly makes them more or less incomprehensible, or at the very least, dauntingly veiled: “Restricted habitat,” “Phantom framework,” and the enigmatically question-marked “Lack of imagination?” Note the weird, obfuscatory phrasing of these “limitations” as opposed to the previously Spartan entries that lauded him. But really the best thing here is the “Lack of imagination?” entry, which is so baffling and strange that it defies description. Brookhiser starts out thundering like a herd of mice: “Bush has intelligence, energy, and humility, but does he have imagination?” Then he segues into a freakish rumination on the relationship between Hitler and Churchill, and one kind of wonders how much cough syrup Brookhiser’s had. Then, when you think it can’t possibly get farther afield, Brookhiser wraps up the topic with the out-of-deep-space musing, “Bush thinks in prose. Can he hear music?”

And that’s when the magazine hit the wall.

It's All About ME

A Liberal Arts Education Is Useful When Drinking

Oh, it’s going to be a shortish entry tonight, because I’ve been out debauching. Well, nerd-debauching; I went out with some friends and played bar trivia. And, incredibly, WE WON!

As the bespectacled geeks who Frink around the weird server room might awkwardly exclaim, “W00t.” Our team o’ five took in $175, so I was basically handsomely paid to go out drinking and eating terrible bar food. Get the special of the night: “3 tacos for 2 bucks!” Are you kidding me? I just won over thirty bucks! GIVE ME FORTY-FIVE TACOS, STAT!

The categories were . . . meh. Let’s see: War (they named a battle, you named the war); Beer (slam-dunk); Science and Math (in which we had to calculate a fucking kilometers to miles conversion, no mean feat even when you haven’t been drinking); Lead Singers (audio trivia; they played the song, you named the lead singer–and one guy on our team knew who the fucking yowler was for Steppenwolf, unbelievably); Geography; Americana; 20th Century History, and Acronyms (did you know that RADAR stood for “Radio Detection And Ranging”? Neither did we.) The one they left out at the last minute, which outraged me and this other total nerd was Books You Haven’t Read. Fucking bastards. I’ve read Infinite Jest and A Brief History of Time and The Corrections and Gravity’s Rainbow and all that shit; it’s what I did growing up while I was having no sex. I was ready for them to bring it on, but they gave me the old sandpaper handjob.

But no matter! WE WERE VICTORIOUS! It was the Lead Singers category that put us over the top; they coughed up seventeen songs and we got sixteen of them, including Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. We did unfortunately miss Jack Russell from Great White, because we all thought it sounded like the dick-in-zipperesque frightened caterwauling of Vince Neil. Those hair metal bands were all grown in the same vat anyway and have since all been deconstructed into constituent parts and then painstakingly reassembled into next year’s shambling zombie models for the upcoming Tom’s of Finland calendar. All that’s left is for the technicians to craft ghoulishly veiny penis replicas to shove down their leather pants, as years of sopranic shrieking have left their original unfortunate members shriveled and miserable from diverted blood loss.

And since I have just creeped myself right the fuck out, I’m going to bed. Thirty dollars richer. W00t. Glavin. And the hey hey hey I won.

Freude, Schaden

Creating An Extended Rant Out of Nothing

Since I have been sitting here for an hour wondering what the fuck to write about, and have been failing to actually write, I have decided–mostly out of frustration, but also hunger, because, well, Christ in clam sauce, an hour?–to simply write about the stuff that I considered writing about, started to, failed, deleted, and am now going to write about anyway. Clear?

First failed idea: Wedding stuff.

Rejected because everything’s been going really well, actually, and how interesting is that? We picked out a cake from a really nice old guy who has been making them since the Hoover administration, and we got a plain old white three-tier cake with incredibly baroque icing on it that is going to look fucking smashing right up until we destroy the shit out of it, and there goes two hundred and fifty dollars right down all of our friends’ gullets, and I think I’ll remind them of that as they are eating it, just to be a jerk: “You’re eating four of my dollars, so enjoy it, you bastard. You better not have bought us towels.” What else? Oh, the invitations are done and are going out, after a bit more judicious weeding from the invitation list to get it down into a number we can express without resorting to scientific notation. Included in this tally was at least one dead person, who could have really livened things up. It would have been kind of neat to rig up the corpse of my dead great-aunt so that right in the middle of the ceremony, she could be hoisted up by wires and jerk around crazily, while a hidden recording blared out “UNCLEAN! UNHOLY UNION! THE DEAD RISE UP IN OPPOSITION!”

Second rejected idea: The secret conversations of my houseplants.

Oh, doesn’t that sound ducky? I only have four houseplants and one little snippet of a houseplant that was given to me in the hopes that I would one day put it in soil, which of course will never happen. So it will die in the little specimen jar thingy I got it in, but the thing is, it’s been not-dying for like six months now. Not so for his big brother, who is doing nothing but dying despite being in a very nice sunny spot and getting lots of water. I tried the other route: no sun and little water, but the little fucker hated that even more, and drooped and paled so aggressively, it looked like a vegetative wraith. I think it might be the soil, which looks like stony earth from Nosferatu’s coffin; it holds no water and just looks redolent of evil, and pretty clearly betrays its arid Eastern European peasant past, and probably has fond memories of breaking poor Romanian hoes while peasant tears rained down upon it, and it heard their lamentations because there would be no potatoes this year, or any other. It’s having a harder time with my houseplant, but it’s getting there.

I also have two cactuses and an irradiated rubber tree. The cactuses are just as useless as all cactuses except for those cool big bastards that sometimes fall on desert rubes, and the irradiated rubber tree grows like something out of a fucking fifties movie like Them! and would someday make for a terribly cool retro-fifties horror movie if it could just grow some legs and eat fear-blighted townspeople, which at this point, it might, but then again I could always stave off that bit of nastiness by repotting it in the Romanian Soil of Morbidity.

Third rejected idea: The Arquette family.

This seemed initially most attractive, because look at them! What the fuck happened with this family? One started out in a Toto video, then paraded moistly through a few interesting oddities, like After Hours and by God, Pulp Fiction (albeit briefly) and then flamed out with terrible, soul-manglers like the impossible The Big Blue or the unwatchable Hope Floats. Last time she was seen, she was swallowing poison on the set of Joe Dirt.

Then the other one, the sheened pneumo-babe with the pickled brain, started out all va-va-voom in the slick, veneered True Romance, but then some similar malady took hold and then she found herself crying wetly through unspeakable horrors like Stigmata and Beyond Rangoon, that latter being a precise description of where all extant copies of that movie were quietly buried under a cairn piled high with dingo skulls and discarded babies.

And of course the most offensively afflicted of these sufferers of Arquette’s Syndrome is unquestionably the vile, shambling idiot-mass known as David, whose turn in Scream seemed to verge on the not-horrible, but of course we all know what happened then: ghastly, flaming wreckage. Ready to Rumble, 3000 Miles to Graceland, and, worst of all, the AT&T commercials, where he proceeded to actually make you wish for Carrot Top, or if not Carrot Top, then perhaps a cold shotgun to suck on as you cursed the shabby little capering demigods that exist solely to invent the likes of David Arquette, whom at this point you aren’t even capable of thanking for his one good deed, which was to gradually suck all the marrow out of Courtney Cox until she resembled a rattling scarecrow hung with tattered leather.

That’s what I didn’t write about tonight. Tomorrow: On the usage of frightening run-on sentences.