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Tuesday, 30 March
Absent Friend

In high school, everyone's gotta have a best friend. Especially if, like me, you were a dweeby, skinny kid with glasses who listened to awful, pukey bands like Sigue Sigue Sputnik and the Woodentops--because without a best friend, you're kind of just getting beaten up and then going home every day, which gets pretty old pretty fast. At least with a best friend you can commiserate: "J.B. hit me in the nuts today." "J.B. is a fucking fag." "I know. I hate that fag." (Pause.) "Fag." Leaving aside that adolescent boys aren't known for either their sensitivity or their sparkling conversation, I should just point out that in Idaho, "fag" was the definitive utilitarian insult. For a long time, I didn't even know that it carried an actual meaning; I regarded it as another sort of generic profanity, like "fucker." I even remember this exchange, in junior high, between two other (female) parties, and being wholly mystified by the levels of subtext that I was obviously not getting: "You're a total fag!" "Oh, yeah? Well, you're a fag-GET!" (Her pronunciation.) I stood there wondering what the hell the distinction could mean, but there was nobody I could ask; I hadn't met B. yet.

B. and I were in many ways total opposites. Where I listened to bands nobody had ever heard of ("Who in the fuck is Love and Rockets?"), B. listened to bands nobody else wanted to hear: he was an avowed metalhead. Interestingly, he was also a strangely self-aware metalhead. Remember that this was the mid-to-late 80s, the age of hair metal, and so we would drive around listening to horrific garbage like Poison, Whitesnake and other forgotten wretches like the BulletBoys. B. would comment, "Jesus, these guys really stink." I would enthusiastically agree: "Why do you listen to this fucking shit, then?" He didn't know. "It just rocks, you know?" I didn't know.

His favorite bands were a real mystery to me, too: he had a deep reverence for the band Ratt, a thoroughly unremarkable metal band if there ever was one; Ratt was to metal as Sheryl Crow is to pop music--inoffensive pap that your brain barely registers. B. also revered Dokken, horribly enough, mainly for their startlingly ugly guitarist George Lynch, who played the guitar as if he were renting it by the hour: every solo was blindingly fast, and Dokken's videos would all inevitably feature loving closeups of Lynch's terrifying imp-fingers, which was actually a real pleasure, given that the alternative was looking at his dreadful face, peering out ghoulishly from behind a nimbus of tortured bleached hair.

We did have moments of agreement: we both thoroughly enjoyed the Def Leppard album Hysteria, and tirelessly played it over and over one summer, pausing it only to fast-forward past the deeply lame title track, one of those appalling metal ballads, all caramelized ennui and husky "I wantcha" moanings. Another interesting discovery was this mysterious bunch of apocalyptically gloomy death-pigs named Metallica, whose Master of Puppets album made us wide-eyed. They played every song as if their nuts were on fire, and shrieked out incomprehensible banshee babblings; this was music to kill dogs with a hammer by. In other words, pretty good fare for the average teenaged boy.

But for all his metalhead posturing, B. was a pretty hilarious fellow. Here's a few of my favorite schticks he pulled. (Note that these anecdotes will serve to refute those who would like to deny the homoeroticism that inevitably exists amongst your average teenaged boys.)

1. At B.'s house, watching videos, bored. B. suddenly announced that he was hungry, so he wandered into the kitchen. "Hey, I'm going to make a hot dog. You want one?" "Sure," I said distractedly. He rattled around in there for a while, fixing things up. Finally he emerged from the kitchen and walked over with a plate. "Here you go," he said. I turned to him to take the plate and discovered that he was holding a plate with a bun on it; the bun contained his penis. He hovered there with an enormous grin; I noticed also that he was holding a big squeeze bottle of French's in his other hand. "Mustard?" he asked quietly, like a good waiter. My reaction was sadly predictable: "You fag! Get away from me!" B. cackled and ran back into the kitchen. I sat there feeling a little disconsolate. First of all, the hot dog had sounded really good. Second, I had noted clinically that B.'s dick was absolutely huge. Nothing was fair!

2. B. and I, hanging out at my place, probably again watching videos. Ding-dong! The doorbell. I shuffled over to answer it and was confronted with that most horrifying of situations, the Jehovah's Witnesses, apparently there to try and convince me that true salvation lay in getting eight million doors slammed in my face. They started into their spiel, and I stammered politely, because while I certainly didn't want to talk to these poor bastards, I was raised not to do rude things like slam doors in nice people's faces. (I have since gotten over this.) B., however, had a solution. He crept up behind me and looped an arm over my shoulder suggestively. "Lover, come back to bed," he crooned, "I miss your butt." The JWs practically dropped their Watchtower on my shoes in an effort to vacate my doorstep.

3. This might be my favorite. And I doubt that any of these are terribly original, you know, but that's hardly what old memories are about. This one, in fact, just made me laugh for a few minutes before I could type it up.

Anyway. B. and I were hanging out at our friend K.'s place. K. and I were in the kitchen preparing for a party later at the place, as K.'s parents had stupidly gone out of town. They had sternly told K. that C., his older sister, was firmly in charge, which was even stupider than leaving town, since C. was a college student who immediately endorsed the party idea with both thumbs. So K. and I were trying to ram a vodka bottle into a watermelon for later consumption. From behind us, we suddenly heard B. call out, "Hey, guys! Check it out!" We turned around and beheld B. with his pants around his ankles. He had discovered a particularly tall, phallic cactus and had placed it below his ass, and was straddling it, moving his ass up and down, miming butt-cactus sex. He grinned enthusiastically over his shoulder at us as he continued his gyrations. Again, we were totally predictable: "You fucking fag!" B. continued happily, his ass mere inches from the awful cactus. Then K. went quiet and turned a bit pale. He said, "B.--your leg. Your leg is . . . " he trailed off. Then I saw what he saw. There was a tiny thin line of crimson liquid that was leaking out of B.'s ass, running down his leg. It was chilling. Did he accidentally get himself caught on the cactus? How could he not notice? Was something . . . else wrong with him? B. never stopped his faux-humping for a minute. K. and I couldn't do anything but stare at that red liquid, that languidly bobbing ass.

Then B. unclenched his ass a little bit. And let a maraschino cherry fall out from between his cheeks. K. and I, unable to fully process this fresh horror, screamed like murder victims while B. yanked up his drawers and ran snickering into the bathroom.

Like a lot of old friends, B. and I went our separate ways, and gradually lost touch, bit by bit. Hey, it happens. But here's to B. and to all the best friends we can find.

Salut, B.!

You fucking fag.

Everyone Into The Pool

HERE THERE BE SPOYLERS!

If you don't want to hear stuff about the new season of "The Sopranos," you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The wife and I are devout fans of this show, and have been known to kick people out of our home on Sunday nights so as not to be bothered with off-topic blather while we watch this most anointed of programs. As we are both trained actors, this show is like purest manna for us: I simply don't think there is a show out there that can challenge this cast for sheer firepower. And the hi-lariously fabulous misanthropic writing doesn't hurt either: this is a show that hates all humans, and to make sure we in the audience understands this point of view, it frequently kills many humans, most of whom are guilty either of (a) total venality, (b) lack of observance of The Rules, or (c) making the grave mistake of simply existing within five city blocks of a bunch of terrifying sociopaths.

And you can't tell me there isn't a better show for lining up jaw-dropping, baffling guest stars. The most recent episode featured luminaries like David Lee Roth and Lawrence Taylor. In the same scene! Aren't these guys like antiparticles? Rothons and LTinos, when intermixed, will produce a powerful, killing burst of HasBeenos! Use caution, and wear safety overalls!

And in a very Sopranos development on the home front, the much-mentioned pool has attracted guests: a pair of ducks. This is just fucking adorable. Yes, two mated ducks have adopted our pool as their hangout of choice, and it's killing us. (I frankly have no idea how they are cool with the chlorine--I saw the male take a nice long drink from the water, and I was beset with worry that he was poisoning himself. Nice duck! Don't drink the beastly toxic man-brine!) The wife and I inched up to the pool to coo at them in their throaty language, and we hoarsely cackled: "Mak! Mak! Mak!" The ducks, clearly no strangers to the Big Pink Food-Vendors, waddled right up to us and angled their beaks expectantly. The message was unmistakable: Pink things! They will throw us yeasty sponginess! That is their function. However, since the building management was already notably aware of--as they termed it--"the duck problem," we suspected that they would take a dim view of our feeding them.

So we didn't feed them, which made me terribly depressed. Stupid building. You put a crystalline pond out right in the open air! You're going to get pissy when inncocent ducks think, "Hey, rad water! Let's go take a dump in that!" Of course, this is also a building--condo--where they have bylaws describing in detail the various protocols to be observed while washing your fucking car ("Not to be done in the roundabout!").

I'm pretty sure that they hastily added that last bylaw onto the books once they saw that we were bringing a morose, swaybacked '82 Honda into the covered garage. "Good God!" they said. "It's bad enough we have David Lee Roth in this building. We don't need his hearse out front."

Don't worry, Diamond Dave. When you finally kick it, you're not going anywhere bad. We're going to feed you to the ducks. LT says he'll help heave the body into the pool.

Friday, 26 March
OXY! For fuck's sake!

[Television on. A mustachioed, blocky man runs onstage excitedly; he appears to be made entirely of solid meat, without any internal structure at all. He screams all the time, and is in no way appealing or enjoyable, much like Colin Quinn. He, in fact, is very nearly worse than Colin Quinn, but not quite, because that is impossible.]

THE POWER OF OXY! HAVE YOU HARNESSED THE POWER OF OXY?

[Studio silence.]

YOU ROTTEN FUCKS!

[Pause. He mops his meat-brow.]

I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I have pituitary issues. Let's talk about oxygen--the power of OXY!

It's everywhere these days, isn't it? You've seen my detergent ads? The power of Oxy gang-rapes the fuck out of those wine stains, huh? It practically tapes their mouths shut and violates those stains! And those stains were asking for it. You know they were. And don't even get me started on the carpet cleaners! Oxy makes those carpet stains its prison bitches! Ground-in dirt? Let me tell you something: ground-in dirt sucks Oxy's cleaning power off whenever Oxy is bored.

And Oxy isn't stopping here! Fuck no! Oxy won't rest until Oxy is like fucking Galactus! [The yammering asshole presses his terrible face against the camera lens ominously.] Oxy won't be happy until it eats your living asshole. YOU. THE CONSUMER.

[Suddenly gratingly breezy again.] For example! We've got Oxy Arch Supports! Using--you know it!--the power of oxygen! Let me demonstrate! [Cut to a sobbing, gagged man strapped down on to a gurney.] This man suffers from fallen arches. But with these new Oxy Arch Supports--[cut to the man's shuddering feet, which are clad in ugly sneakers]--no more podiatry! [The yammering asshole suddenly smashes the bound man's feet with a sledge hammer. The victim screams piteously, and thrashes like a flounder.] See? See how I introduce the oxygen? [After a few more enthusiastic blows with the sledge, we mercifully move away.]

But that's not all. The POWER OF OXY is too potent for just housecleaning and hobbling! No, not at all! Oxy has now been introduced into our new line of home cooking. May I introduce . . . Oxy Pizza! [A stacked woman nervously brings out a frozen pizza, holding it as if it were radioactive.] This thing is . . . thanks, Stella . . . well, it's fucking crazy awesome. I wish I could fuck this pizza! I WANT TO OXY-FUCK THIS PIZZA! [The yammering asshole awkwardly mounts the frozen pizza and makes disturbing pelvic gestures. He screams like a wounded animal.] OXY-COCK! OXY-COCK! [Offstage directors wave frantically. The yammering asshole regains his composure and continues, climbing down from the counter.]

But the POWER OF OXY is not limited to cleaning aids, foot repair, or kitchen seasonings. Not at all. Oxy is also making inroads with the medical community. [The yammering asshole suddenly becomes grave.] Many Americans suffer from hemmorhoids. Maybe you--or a loved one--are one of these people. Well, Oxy is here to help. Do you want the power of oxygen to help you? Because our new OxySuppositories can do just that. Let me demonstrate. I have piles like you wouldn't believe. They look like Halloween in Detroit. [Camera shot of the yammering asshole removing his pants and inserting a suppository. Screams of terror are heard from the studio audience.]

Yes, it IS exciting! Never before has the power of oxygen been harnessed for rectal care! [He proudly waves his ass.] Can you at home hear that? It sounds like a pound of bacon in a skillet! [Awful popping noises are heard via enhanced audio.] It's literally cooking away the damaged tissue! I wish you could smell this, folks. It smells like . . . home. [The yammering asshole adopts a dreamy expression.]

So, you've seen the power of OXY. It cleans garments. It relieves terrible foot pain. It will enhance your pizza experience. At it will ream out your diseased ass like nobody's business with God's own wildfire.

Can you afford not to buy OXY? CAN YOU? My bubbling ass says . . . you can't.

Wednesday, 24 March
Topics of Cancer

At work today, we had what is known as a "committee meeting." Cancer research is often broken up into "disease sites," or "committees": that is, the differing types of cancer. Brain, lung, myeloma, gynecological, etc. They all have different treatments (well, many different treatments even within committees, but never mind), so it's kind of a waste of time for the head and neck people to talk shop with the melanoma people. You don't want the muffler guy fixing your brakes.

Anyway, we had a guest sit in on our typically half-numbing, half-bitchfest of a meeting. He was what's known as a "young investigator;" that is, a doctor who is interested, for whatever self-immolating reason, in getting acquainted with the process of launching and coordinating a research protocol. Against all stereotype, he turned out to be a really decent fellow, remarkably unjaded (give it time), and equally remarkably without a discernably bloated ego. I mentally christened him Dr. Improbable, and we discussed for a little while the study he was trying to shepherd into the research world, a study involving something so mindbendingly awful that it had its own mindbendingly awful new word for the day, "myeloablative," which I take to mean "scorches the fucking shit out of your brand new bone marrow, your blood counts, and your will to revisit hospitals."

Dr. Improbable received our comments on his protocol with much good grace, and even took notes, a first in my experience with research doctors, who are, as a rule, typically more accustomed to you listening while they are talking, particularly about stuff you never wished to hear, like how patient X obviously shouldn't have melted into a brackish goo, and it was really puzzling, because "We didn't anticipate the goo-effect." There's nothing quite like working with investigational drugs to open up new vistas into horrifying unanticipated effects, but Dr. Improbable seemed game. I refrained from needling him with the suggestion that his treatment might likely result in someone's face falling off to the floor with a wet plop, and then would maybe slither horribly to the mail slot in search of fresh dogmeat to devour. And if you're curious, that particular toxicity would probably fall under "Dermatologic; Other," with the appended clinical note, "Sloughing of Animate Facial Tissue Exhibiting Carnivorous Appetite." Grade 3.

When we were done giving Dr. Improbable's woefully underdeveloped study the Torquemada treatment, we retired to that great tradition of Getting To Know You, the slagging of people we all knew. Dr. Improbable proved to be a great font of lore when it came to certain doctors we were all familiar with, so we dished delightedly.

DR. PLOTZ

Dr. Plotz wears the biggest of wigs in our world, and only two years ago was universally reviled as the biggest prick in Christendom. Then, abruptly, he moved from a certain snooty mid-Atlantic school to a certain snooty East Coast institution, and has been mildly less reprehensible since. Which is a little like saying that Mussolini became a lot more easygoing once he was killed, but hey, small favors. The first time I met Dr. Plotz (at a giant committee meeting), he greeted me with "Hey, who the hell are you?" Six months later, another meeting: "Are you supposed to be here?" (No, I'm a freaky civilian who enjoys incomprehensible oncology consortiums. We're everywhere!) Six months after that: "I don't know you. Are you with a drug company?" I wanted to tell him, yes, I was from Bolivia and had some quality blow, and did he love his wife?

DR. KRAKEN

So named because she resembles some barnacled thing from an unhappy sea. I originally named her "The Sea Hag" because of her baleful, rheumy eyes, which made me think that she was skilled at seeing nervous crabs skittering the gloomy depths of the ocean's bottom, but I eventually decided on "Dr. Kraken" because she depressed me just as much as the terrible film "Clash of the Titans," and is kind of scaly and beaky. I also like to think of her being destroyed by Harry Hamlin.

DR. HAIR

He's well over six feet tall and has the kind of unruly, alarming hair that one normally finds on playgrounds, which also causes me to think of him as Dennis the Doctor Menace, an image not helped by his small stutter and his utter inability to respond to my frantic requests for data clarification. I am Mr. Wilson to his Dennis, and when I send my inevitable queries to his office--"Please, please help me figure out what this means!"--I basically get this back: "I shat in your glove box last night, which was great fun. See you soon!" I know that when I die, Dr. Hair will show up to graffito my tombstone: "Your best work yet!"

Tuesday, 23 March
Meh Squared

I have been reading a book called The Devil's Candy--which I believe was also the title of a documentary film--that is about the legendarily awful film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's holy-fuck blockbuster novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. I was in college when I read the book, and at the time, thought it was just fucking great; and while I've moved on since then, I still think it's a good book and some really biting satire. I don't think it's easy to write an enormous novel filled with a nearly full roster of loathsome people and still be engaging, but I think it helps that Wolfe can be horrendously funny--boiling teeth!--see also the almost painfully hilarious The Right Stuff. For the flipside, take a try at Wolfe's highly anticipated (and wholly wretched) follow-up A Man in Full. You shouldn't have any trouble finding dozens of copies at your local used bookstore.

I went to see the movie with my old college girlfriend, and she was kind of mystified at my anticipation. "Did you read the reviews of this movie? It's like they filmed this thing at a concentration camp built on an Indian burial ground." But I was hopelessly hooked. I had promised myself that the filmmakers wouldn't fuck it all up, and maintained a childlike sense of trust about the whole thing.

They of course fucked it all up.

I'm halfway through The Devil's Candy, and so far luckless director Brian DePalma is looking pretty good, if perhaps willfully naive. He's foisted some pretty offensive manure on us in the past; in fact, it's easier to list his good movies rather than catalog his utter disasters: Carrie, The Untouchables: these are good, well-crafted movies. But good gravy, anything else? The rest of the time, he's unleashing Hollywood pit demons like Body Double, Mission to Mars and Body Double onto unsuspecting audiences who were only looking to eat some popcorn, snuggle with a loved one, and maybe score a nice handjob. I defy anyone to maintain an erection during a terrifying debacle on the scale of 8 MM. (Uh, make that Snake Eyes. I continue to suck.)

There literally isn't anything good or redeeming or funny or non-shoot-yourself about the film version of Bonfire of the Vanities. Tom Hanks was the first star cast, as the broad-chested, hale and hearty bonds trader Sherman. Tom Hanks is about as hale and hearty as a fish stick, but whatever. Next, Uma Thurman--herself not exactly a synonym for DYNAMO ACTRESS--lost out to, of all people, Melanie Griffith for the role of the duplicitous fuck-hive Maria, Sherman's mistress. I'm afraid that I cannot imagine anything more depressing than the idea of losing out on an acting gig to someone as thoroughly useless as Melanie Griffith. It's no wonder that she despondently agreed to let Ethan Hawke fuck her. You do anything when you hit bottom.

The less that is said about Kim Cattrall as Sherman's wife the better. Let's just say that she was fantastically more dynamic as her last role in Mannequin, in which she played a store dummy who unenthusiastically boned the eternally unappealing Andrew McCarthy (aka "I Stare Blankly For A Living").

Then there was the role of the fiery, aged, vituperative judge Myron Kovitsky. Kovitsky is in many ways the least compromised character in the book, a stalwart being in a crumbling world where everyone else is in a desperate hurry to fuck everyone else over if it only means their own salvation. Of course he gets burned in the end, but not in Hollywood. DePalma ended up agreeing to have the wizened, crabby, profane Jewish judge played by: Morgan Freeman, fresh off of his acclaim from Driving Miss Daisy. Now I think that Mr. Freeman is a terrifically great actor, someone with a great interior "life" that he brings to his roles, but this was just awful. His big scene involves him lecturing the courtroom attendees to "be decent to each other!" This from a book that suggests that people are very close to being genetically incapable of being decent.

Let's not even talk about Bruce Willis as the dissipated drunk tabloid reporter Peter Fallows, who in the book is British. Willis isn't a terrible actor, just a terribly limited one, who had approximately none of the chops required of the role. Willis gets better as he ages, but in the same way that you describe your shoes: he just gets more familiar and more comfortable. Good for him, but it's not very helpful when he's ruining your shoe collection. Besides, it's not exactly ringing praise to compare an actor to everyday footwear. Especially when you're tempted to bring up Terence Stamp as a Nike avatar.

UNRELATED HORSESHIT

Disappointing phrases heard this weekend, #1:

(Man at the bar, evidently talking about a friend): I guess he had HIV. I wish he woulda told me. (Long pause.) So I coulda shot him.

I really try not to hate everyone, but sometimes it's hard.

#2:

(Skot approaches store. The electronic eye opens the door for him. Two young women are standing close by.)

Is my butt opening that door? My butt always opens doors. I point my butt at doors, and they open.

I opted not to respond to this, despite the screaming of my brain.

THIRD-HAND THINGS

I got this one from the wife. She was talking to a sorta-friend, who recently had to attend a funeral. There was evidently a little girl there, who was the picture of good behavior for the entire service. At least until the end, whereupon she turned to her mother and hoarsely whispered (referring to the coffin prominently displayed), "When do they open the big box so we can get our presents?"

Thursday, 18 March
TV Party Tonight

Occasionally on the Travel Channel, I see ads for a show that exudes a certain sense of mystery about it. That show is "Made In America with John Ratzenberger." They show John Ratzenberger--Cliff from "Cheers," who is really falling up here, huh?--driving around in an RV, surveying the sun-dappled terrain of our great land, and occasionally stopping off to see people make crap. The mysterious part of the ads, for me, is: Who on earth wants to watch this fucking thing? Was John Ratzenberger just making a terrible pest of himself around the studio lots? "Come onnn, you guys, I was Cliff! America's favorite ugly, clumsy, virginal, mommy-fixated, alcoholic mailman! That's got to be worth something!" "Jesus Christ. Stick this asshole in an RV and get him the fuck out of here." I cannot imagine watching this show.

But it does give me hope for project development! With the inspiring example of John fucking Ratzenberger in mind, here are some shows I have planned.

The World Crossword Tour. Building on the same audience base as the World Poker Tour, it seems reasonable that people who enjoy watching unattractive, sedentary men sitting around playing cards will also enjoy them sitting around solving crosswords. Breathless play-by-play and color commentary will be given by renowned crossword-maker Will Shortz and hungry D-list actor Ian Ziering. "Look at that! Bill Katz is filling in nine down!" "He sure is, Will." "Over at table two, things aren't going so well for last year's champ Terry Benton. I think he's given up." "You're right, Will. He is no longer solving the puzzle and is instead filling in blanks with dirty words like 'jizz' and 'boob.' "

The Making of The Making of Mona Lisa Smile. This intriguing meta-documentary will feature some of the technical challenges and the creative talents that went into the creation of the short film that told the story of the talented crew and luckless cast who worked on the dismal box office catastrophe, Mona Lisa Smile. Not featured will be interviews with stars Julia Roberts and Maggie Gyllenhall. Don't miss "behind the 'behind the scenes' scenes ", such as where key grip Chuck Haverson uses the rest room, or when this one other guy eats a sandwich!

Omahaw! This weekly series, hosted by Alan Greenspan, will feature routines from many of Omaha's favorite stand-up comedians. Alan Greenspan dourly intones in the opener, "These people are all from Omaha. They are sporadically amusing. I encourage you to try and enjoy this television program." Oh, Alan! You so crazy! With emphasis on prop-based humor, filthy limericks, and plenty of jokes about corn, this program is sure to take off! It tested like gangbusters in Omaha.

The Ears of Laura Mars. A darker, edgier program about a female photographer (Justine Bateman) who realizes that, on the whole, for her age, she has pretty good hearing. The show will follow Laura around her work and home life as she hears things like traffic noises, various ringtones, and corduroy pants. In a nod to the groundbreaking show "The Sopranos," a centerpiece to the series will be regular visits to her ear doctor, "Dr. Melgi," who serves to reassure Laura that her hearing is "still pretty good."

Beach Blanket Boggle. As an homage to the old "beach" movies, which featured attractive young white people frolicking in the surf and sand, septuagenarians (or possibly their reanimated corpses) Annette Funicello and Frankie Valli Avalon* play spirited games of Boggle on a desolate, rocky Oregon beach while tightly wrapped in large, scratchy blankets. Some of these episodes are already in the can, including "PLOTZ is not a word!", "These cubes are too rattly", "It's cold and gritty out here", and the soon-to-be classic "Fuck the Mouseketeers, fuck all the Mouseketeers!"

*Check me out, I suck!

Monday, 15 March
The Yellow Kid

Earlier today as I was blearing around the office, I felt nature's call and stopped by the rest room. I approached the nearest urinal and stared down into a pool of bright yellow. It seemed to glow faintly, and as I stared at this little puddle of malice, I got kind of depressed. I mean, heigh-ho, do your part for the environment and all--I'm not unamenable to saving some flushwater here and there--but man alive . . . not when it's that color. It was just a feeling I got as I stood there, that somehow it's not right to leave your spoor lying around when it's so violently hued and, frankly, kind of alarming and unsettling and weird. Clear piss? No problem! Malevolent, caution-yellow, renal failure piss? Come on, Kidney Avenger, flush it away from innocent eyes.

If you're waiting for this post to start displaying some of the classiness that my tens of readers have come to totally not expect from this weblog, you're going to be really sad.

On the home front, in the new place, the wife and I have basically realized that the central feature of the new pad--in fact, we save it for the end of the guest tour--is, yes, the bathroom. Not the patio. Not the pool. The bathroom.

It's kind of hard to explain without seeing it. The main motif is slate. Blocks of rough-hewn slate cover the walls, and there is not-really-recessed lighting, the kind where the little cylinder hangs from the ceiling with the bulb tucked up inside, so the light pools. This combined with the dark stone walls contribute towards a sort of seedy Mobbish feel to it, like at any moment you could either get a bullet in the brain, or a blowjob from a stripper, depending. Which I must say is pretty exciting brain-fare when you're just trying to find your shaving cream.

Well, not all the walls are as I describe. There is one wall that has full-length mirrors, a nice feature in some bathrooms. Perhaps not this one, however, as the location here is key. First of all, they are directly across from the shower, which to me is largely unimportant: I am blind as a fucking block of wood, so the sight of a damp, writhing pink blob is no more startling than any of the other amorphous fuzzwhats that make up my uncorrected visual field. The wife, however, reports that it takes some getting used to climbing out of the shower only to spy your life-large naked self climbing out of the shower directly across from you.

Which is not to say I'm wholly unaffected by the mirrors. No, I am, in a distinctly more horrible way, because there's still one piece of information I've held back. As I said: On one side is the shower. On the other facing wall are the mirrors. And just below the mirrors is the toilet.

This is in many ways a very curious bit of home decor. Well, for me, very curious from a male point of view (so to speak), considering that, like most non-impaired males, we have the physiological privilege of being able to piss while standing up. This is a birthright that fathers make sure to inform their male kids of at earliest opportunity, frequently at a lonely roadside on some long car trip. But at least for me, something I am emphatically not used to is seeing me piss, full face on, two feet from myself. It was, in fact, extremely disquieting the first few times I did it, because let's get down to brass tacks here: there I was, idly pissing, staring as men frequently do down into the bowl. (Hey, I think I'll aim at that little piece of tissue! Bam, direct hit! Yes, we shoot at stuff, because we can, and we are, after all, just silly boys.) Then I looked up. And there I was. Holding my doppelwanger, pissing.

It was really strange. I mean, I see myself piss from the skull-cam all the time, but this was brand new. For one thing, I suddenly felt deeply self-conscious about that guy across from me holding his weirdo penis. Hey, pal, I felt like shouting, put your dick away! Jesus! Then I got kind of weirdly clinical, and started thinking unkind thoughts about this alien penis glaring at me from the mirror. Is that the right color for that thing? It looked vaguely wrong. I mean, all penises are kind of wrong-looking, and weirdly hilarious; they sort of flop around unpredictably, and are kind of excitable, and there's just no talking to them at all. Penises do what they want. They are not inscrutable and enigmatic like, say, vaginas. There is nothing less enigmatic than a penis.

Finally, after a while of this, I was done pissing, and so was my new pal over there. But I stood there a second longer, thinking, There's something else. Something else that looks weird. What? Then after a moment, I had it. I know what it is. I just thought . . . I just thought it would look . . . bigger.

Friday, 12 March
The (Non-BBC) Office

Tom sat nervously in his chair, facing the kind-faced doctor. He fidgeted a bit, looking gloomy. The doctor leaned forward.

"Please try not to worry," the doctor said consolingly. "We don't know anything yet. Would you like a beer?" He gestured at a row of taps on his desk. "The Mirror Pond is really nice. They're only four dollars."

Tom stared woefully at the taps and declined. "No thank you. I just want the results." HMOs were getting pretty weird in their hopeless battle against their image of utter rapacity and uncaringness towards their patients. Tom had already declined--twice--offers of complimentary peanuts.

"We should know soon. The pathology results will be in any moment." The doctor smiled again, and settled back in his leather chair.

"It's just this fucking lump," moaned Tom, "It's really got me worried."

"In your throat, you said," said the doctor. "It could be a lot of things. For example: have you had a traumatizing event recently? A cause for grief? These often manifest as a 'lump in the throat.' "

"Well . . . Wizzles died. My cat." Tom fought tears.

"Ah . . . a cat. Well, I can probably rule out simple grief, then. Cats are awful pets." The doctor smiled reassuringly as Tom stared at him. The doctor proudly tapped on the diploma framed behind him on the wall. "The Lithuanian Mob doesn't just hand out these medical licenses, you know."

Out the window facing the hallway, a sudden commotion broke out towards the pathology lab. The doctor stood up, while Tom chewed his tongue fearfully. "Here we go," said the doctor. "I think we have something." He moved towards an easel with a number of checkboxes on it. He grabbed a grease pencil.

Out of the path lab burst a number of young women. They looked terribly serious, and soon stopped after spotting the doctor eyeing them. One of them took out a red sweater and began waving it madly at the doctor. The doctor consulted his notes.

"I see! Ah . . . let me look here . . . okay, biopsy results are . . . oh, dear. Red sweater?" He looked again at the woman, and sighed. "Red sweater. I'm sorry, Tom. You apparently have B-cell follicular lymphoma." He checked the appropriate box with the grease pencil. "I'm sorry."

Tom felt like otters were gnawing on his ribs. "Jesus Christ. What? What the fuck are those people doing? Lymphoma?"

"Try to remain calm, Tom. Those are my assistants, just relaying the information as it comes in. Oh, now what is Tracy doing?" Tom glanced down the hall and saw a fetching young woman doing the Mashed Potato.

"Mashed Potato," muttered the doctor, poring over his charts. "Ah, basal cell carcinoma. That's no trouble. You just scrape that crap off. Are you sure you don't want a beer? It might be the last one you enjoy once the chemo starts." The doctor looked genuinely accomodating.

"Chemo?" Tom croaked. This was all going too fast, too badly, like an Adam Sandler movie.

"Oh, yes," cooed the doctor. "So far, you're very treatable. The standard regimen for what you've got is called CHOP. It's an acronym for several chemicals that I have a hard time remembering after my 'lunch.' " Here the doctor chuckled and made the "drinky-drinky" gesture. And depending on your CD20 positivity, we may throw in something kicky like Rituxan, which is really, you know . . . " He trailed off and made vague "big dick" gestures. "It's, like, wow." Tom was totally unnerved.

"CHOP? And . . . rit . . . rit . . . " he stammered.

"Rituxan. Or, using the shorthand, CHOP/R," the doctor said coolly.

"CHOPPER?"

"CHOP plus R," the doctor clarified. "I guess nobody could make a cool-sounding acronym out of C, H, O, P, R."

"How about PORCH?" Tom said helplessly, wondering if he was on some horrible, soulless FOX program.

The doctor shot him a wintry look. "PORCH is a terrible acronym for a chemo regimen. What's wrong with you?" His look of scorn shamed Tom, and he hung his head. "PORCH," spat the doctor with real hatred. "A word of advice: stay out of medicine, young man."

Tom sat miserably. He wished he had had that beer after all. There was another tumult down the hall, and he looked up. So did the doctor.

"Now Amber has something for me." He stared at another young woman. She wore some sort of handkerchief in her back pocket, and was frantically waving her ass at the doctor. His expression hardened. He looked at Tom.

"Did you see that? That handkerchief?" The doctor wore an ugly face on his ugly face. He was upset about something.

"Yes," Tom replied haltingly. "Is it more bad news?"

The doctor said stonily, "It's terrible news." He paused for dramatic effect. "You apparently are a bottom who enjoys fisting."

Tom slumped. Boy, he thought, I hate CNBC's health plan.

Wednesday, 10 March
Rub Not Against Your Bookseller

All righty! I am finally settled in to the new place, and after a visit from the sweet, stammering Qwest dude, I have home PC access to the electroweb. After my thorough autopsy of the offending phone jacks ("Mistah Phone Jack, he dead."), the guy spent about ten minutes fixing everything. I quizzed him extensively: "Hey, what was up? I looked inside those phone jacks and didn't see anything wrong." The guy looked at me like I was exactly as stupid as I happen to be. "Th-there are two phone lines wired into this place. Two of your jacks were hooked up to the other inactive line. So I, uh, sw-switched them." Feeling pretty stupid, but apparently not stupid enough, I quizzed him further. "Oh. So you . . . ?" Here I waved my arms around dumbly, because my wife was watching me, and I like to make sure that she's embarrassed for me at all times. The guy said, "I pulled the dead lines off and attached the live ones." People like me are kind of a pain in the ass for smart people, because our very existence tends to cast doubt on things like evolution.

Prior to this bit of self-humiliation, I had stopped off at the end of work to visit the local used bookstore to try and burn off my $80 store credit from returning old, horrible books for newer, slightly less horrible books. Never mind that we still have two or three boxes of unpacked books--fuck those books! They shouldn't have been dawdling at move time. So now, for all I know, some Arrabal plays are languishing in cardboard in favor of my new collection of Ring Lardner short stories. Survival of the unluckiest. All I know is, my collection of the Books of Lists (Vols. 1-3) are smugly sitting high and pretty, and I curse myself that I could not find the strength to purge them. Know this: Books suck, and will make you feel rotten somehow, eventually. My advice is to never read.

Travels to the used bookstore are supposed to be placid affairs, usually. Not this time. I had already picked out some terrible crap--"Hey, a crummy Batman graphic novel from the '80s!"--when the genially loony owner pegged me. "Oh, it's you," she said, in a tone of undisguised boredom. She pointed at a cat (which in her store are legion): "What do you think he's looking at?" Well, the cat was looking at Sherman Alexie books, so I imagined that he was vaguely bummed out, but you can't say that. I muttered something incomprehensible, and the owner wandered off after looking at me liquidly. She kind of freaks me out, but in a good way, like Girl Scouts.

Then the excitement happened. An awful person who looked like he was five bucks short for the next Nine Inch Nails concert exited the store, and the magnetic book detectors went nuts: BEEP BEEP BEEP! The gal at the counter asked him to step back inside, and he swiveled his head around weirdly, and said
"Nah." Then he walked into the street.


BEEP BEEP BEEP!

And the store owner, bless her soul, went nuts.

You know how you read a novel, and someone screams, and the author renders it as something like "EEEEEEEE!"? And it looks kind of stupid? Well, I'm here to report that the owner genuinely screamed "EEEEEEEEE!" And followed the guy out of the store. In fact, she hassled him so thoroughly on the street that she made him come back into the store to pose for "never serve this guy again" pictures. It was kind of like some sort of justifiable criminal frottage. She so thoroughly humiliated the man--"I feel dumb. I'm so sorry." "You should be! You don't steal from me! There's a library two blocks away! Steal from them!"

Jesus. I see her plight. I want him to steal from me. I have a lot of crappy books.

Monday, 08 March
When Einstürzende Neubauten Seems Twee . . .

I still have not been able to hook up the home computer, thanks to some unresponsive phone jacks, so in the meantime I will simply regale you with some song titles from what I can only assume is the most terrible band in history. Friends, I give you Anal Cunt.

I Like It When You Die


1. Jack Kevorkian Is Cool
2. Valujet
3. You've Got No Friends
4. You Keep a Diary
5. You Own a Store
6. You Got Date Raped
7. Recycling Is Gay
8. You're a Cop
9. You Can't Shut Up
10. You've Got Cancer
11. We Just Disagree
12. Hungry Hungry Hippos
13. You Are an Interior Decorator
14. Pottery's Gay
15. Rich Goyette Is Gay
16. Branscombe Richmond
17. You Live in Allston
18. You Are a Good Food Critic
19. Just the Two of Us
20. Your Band's in the Cut-Out Bin
21. You're Gay
22. You Look Adopted
23. Your Cousin Is George Lynch
24. You Have Goals
25. You Drive an Iroc
26. You Play on a Softball Team
27. Because You're Old
28. You Sell Cologne
29. Being a Cobbler Is Dumb
30. You Live in a Houseboat
31. Richard Butler
32. 311 Sucks
33. Your Kid Is Deformed
34. You Are an Orphan
35. You're Old (Fuck You)
36. You Go to Art School
37. You're Best Friend Is You
38. You're in a Coma
39. Windchimes Are Gay
40. No, We Don't Want to Do a Splait Seven Inch With Your Stupid Fucking Band
41. René Auberjonois
42. Internet Is Gay
43. Ha, Ha Your Wife Left You
44. Hootie and the Blowfish
45. You Went to See Dishwalla and Everclear (You're Gay)
46. Locking Drop Dead in McDonalds
47. Technology's Gay
48. Your Favorite Band Is Supertramp
49. I'm in Anal Cunt
50. You (Fill in the Blank)
51. Kyle from Incantation Has a Mustache
52. Bonus Track #3

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Picnic of Love

1. Picnic of Love
2. Greed Is Something That We Don't Need
3. I Wanna Grow Old With You
4. I'd Love to Have Your Daughter's Hand in Marriage
5. I Couldn't Afford to Buy You a Present (So I Wrote You This Song)
6. Waterfall Wishes
7. I'm Not That Kind of Boy
8. Saving Ourselves for Marriage
9. I Respect Your Feelings as a Woman and a Human
10. In My Heart There's a Star Named After You
11. [Untitled]

Oh, poo! I thought these were angry lads, but look! They're very sweet! Oh, the poignancy of [Untitled]!

Bonus Amazon commenter: These are some of the most heartfelt ballads of any rock band I've ever heard, which includes the hits of Styx and Winger. Rock, On, A.C., and may Jesus our Saviour bless thee!!!

Amen, brother!

Hopefully after tomorrow night, when Qwest is finished violently boning me for repair fees, I can get back on a more reg'lar-type posting regimen.

Friday, 05 March
God's Boring Menu

As I still have not been able to set up the home computer, I have to pilfer work-time to create new posts. Hence today's short, deficient, crappy entry.

Earlier this morning, someone mentioned this familiaresque biblical quote:

They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.

Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.

To which I had to reply: Where did this sort of arbitrariness come from? Did some old lost forgotten scribe just have a hard-on against shrimp? What's up with biblical dietary restrictions? It seems like back in the horrible pre-Chee-tos day, you'd happily eat whatever you could get.

It's not even like it's subtle. It's one thing to say, "God would prefer if you didn't eat scallops, because He thinks they are gross." Instead you get over-the-top pronouncements with words like "abomination." I don't get it. (Big surprise there.)

I imagine God: "Well, now I've created man in My own frankly fucking awesome image. What next? I guess I should craft some delicous abominations that he shouldn't eat, for some reason."

I received many intelligent responses to this query, all of which I kind of ignored, because I'm not very bright, and hey, shrimp taste good.


Postscript: Only later did it occur to me that according to Genesis, God created seafood creatures before man, but it's still weird and arbitrary.

Besides, basic Dominion Theory says I can do anything I want to all of those stupid fucking animals. God wants me to kill nature! Thy will be done.

Wednesday, 03 March
The Worst Of The Best Of

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Ready for the World

Bafflingly, the equation "Prince x 5 = 5 Times the enjoyment of Prince" is clearly untrue.

Bonus Amazon customer review quote: "Much love for Ready for the World, because they are my favorite group. I would give them 100 stars, more than 5 stars. They sounded so romantic and I like to listen to them everyday!"

Obsession: The Best of Animotion

The title says it all. No, seriously. "Obsession" was the best of Animotion, period, as they promptly all died of the flux moments after the song hit big.

Bonus Amazon customer review comment: "Wow! What a rippen cd. This is the best band that ever lived in the history of pop music. Drums are the best drums in the whole world. He's better than Dave Weckl, Billy Cobham, and Buddy Rich combined. This band is a complete expierience of pop sensation. BUY THIS CD KNOW!"

For various reasons, these sentences comprise the best prose ever written. Though it does make me sad knowing that nobody will ever compare me to Dave Weckl. For those who have no idea who Dave Weckl is, like me, you should buy his CDs know.

Bonus BONUS Amazon customer review comment: "This album would rate four or higher if it weren't missing I Engineer, which to me, is the best song ever performed by Animotion. You would think The Best of... would contain I Engineer."

Track 4: "I Engineer"

Murray Head - Greatest Hits

Interestingly, this "Greatest Hits" album contains nothing from Jesus Christ Superstar, which is a shame, since hearing Judas screech out "If you'd come today you could have reached the whole nation/ Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication!" is a real hoot.

Instead, you get the wildly improbable hit "One Night in Bangkok" and a bunch of other mystifying horseshit, including something called "Mo Mystery," which unfortunately makes me think of the very unmysterious Mo Vaughn.

Bonus Amazon customer review comment: None.

Very Best of Ram Jam

Oh dear. Remember this band and their witless cover of Leadbelly's "Black Betty"? No? You must not have seen a theatrical trailer in the last twenty years. Also included is the beguilingly titled "404," leading me to believe that this awful band was ahead of its time in cataloguing the nameless dread of hitting a dead end on the internet.

Bonus Amazon customer review comment: "What a great CD! Their first 2 albums on 1 disc. The classic Black Betty rocks! Every song on this CD is hard rockin' at it's best. Tell you the truth, I didn't know they had a second album release until I bought this."

Fulsome praise indeed.

Europe 1982-1992

So titled because if you play "The Final Countdown," it will seem to last for ten years before it is over.

Bonus Amazon customer review comment: "Joey Tempest has a great voice and is also a good keyboard player, as we can hear on the tracks from the two first EUROPE albums. Both John Norum and his replacement in 1986, Kee Marcello are excellent guitarists. Mic Michaeli does well with his keyboard work, and Tony Reno and Ian Haugland are some of the world's best drummers. John Levén is a skilful bassist."

Poor John Leven gets damned with faint praise compared to his legendary bandmates, but I suppose that's to be expected.

Spaced Out: The Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner

Flee for your lives. This terrifying album, in addition to proving that God is wrathful, also demonstrates that nobody is allowed to die before recording a cover of "Both Sides Now" and "Everybody's Talkin'."

Incense and Peppermints [Collection]--Strawberry Alarm Clock

Included merely because I was bummed out that there wasn't a "Best of" album for Lothar and the Hand People.

Bonus Amazon tip: "Customers interested in The Strawberry Alarm Clock may also be interested in:

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Rock on, man.


[The idea for this post is courtesy of my pal Kafkaesque, who is a real mensch for letting me steal it.]

Monday, 01 March
My Life With The Liver Pill Kult

We have moved successfully. Well, semi-successfully. Our stuff was all transported and transported well: the young lads from the moving company were actually nice and helpful and hard-working. It kind of freaked me out, as I was anticipating Teamsterish, sandwich-clutching mesomorphs who would stolidly refuse to move anything, because I'm such a weenie. But no! We got everything into the house okay, and then I promptly broke the toilet by foolishly trying to, you know, use it. My pleas for a plumber were somehow construed by the manager as a demand for a brand-new toilet, which made no sense at all, but it sure caused a lot of baffled screaming on my part, which then immediately made the cable go out.

I'm sure the events are related somehow, anyway. So the wife is going home early today to meet the cable guy "between one and five!" Or so promised the nice cable lady, who allowed me to bully her into an afternoon slot rather than the usual preposterous wasting of an entire workday. Honestly, when did an entire nation--large parts of which are predicated on the notion of good service--suddenly roll over for a bunch of geek failures in ballcaps who provide annoying, desultory service and then soak you for plugging in some fucking co-ax? For these dipshits we willingly sacrifice entire workdays? Cable companies can't contract out to people with efficient scheduling and troubleshooting skills? What if every service was like that? "Hi, I'd like a cab, please." "All right, it'll be about two to six hours." "WHAT?" "Yep. Eat it raw, stupid. Oh, and no matter where you're going, it's gonna cost you forty bucks. How do you like that?" "I hate it!" "I know! But tough! So you still want a cab?" "I guess . . . "

I'm sorry, but this is not the America I want to live in.

It is time now for me to do something I haven't yet really had to do: issue a retraction. In a previous post, I made several mean-spirited jokes at the expense of my new condoneighbors. I implied that they were a bunch of soulless cheese-scarfing yuppies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I now declare that I couldn't have been more wrong about my new neighbors. They are not yuppies.

They are, in fact, all wizened husks, near-corpses and shambling, blasted zombies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I have moved into the Condo Of Imminent Death, and it's a little alarming. In the course of one discussion in the lobby with the Head of the Board (estimated age = one million), there were three wheelchairs, two walkers, and one cane spotted. At another point, when the movers were backing the truck into the front roundabout, an agitated woman started saying frantically, "They can't block the driveway! They can't block the driveway!" Later, after I had gotten the truck out of the way, she (with restored composure) explained, "It's a house rule. There are a lot of people who use that roundabout: tenants, deliverypeople, emergency vehicles . . . " She casually dropped "emergency vehicles" in there without noticing that not all apartment buildings have ambulances on full call all the time. I wondered how many tenants had died during our conversation, and whether or not they had nicer apartments than mine.

But then, when I get home and find out that I still have no cable, and I still have no toilet, I'll probably welcome death myself. And look! I'm right where I need to be.










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