30 November 2012

cindy sherman.

the shocking spectacle of kindness.

Get ready. I'm about to take the gold in the Curmudgeon Olympics. If you're not in the mood for a little bile with your morning coffee, please look away now before it's too late.

First of all, I want to say that I think it's fucking great that a police officer in New York City took the time to get some boots and socks for a barefoot homeless man. Did you hear me? I think it's fucking great! You can't accuse me later on of not recognizing the fucking greatness of this isolated act of kindness and generosity—if that is in fact on your prosecutorial agenda.

BUT—you knew that was coming, didn't you?—what does it say about our society in general when one man's gift of rugged footwear to the homeless somehow qualifies as a national news sensation? 

Yeah, that's right. I'm going there... whether you're with me or not.

This commentary has absolutely nothing to do with that admirable police officer and everything to do with our pitiful standards and sad need to attach ourselves, like leeches, to someone else's magnanimity in order to feel better about the world. It's like this cop—this boot-bearing cop—gave half of America a handjob or something. That's how excited some people are to (merely) spectate at the scene of somebody else's charity. 

I know. People complain all the time that there is no good news to be had—and this little human interest story is supposed to mitigate that claim in some small way. If we have to listen to incessant stories about terrorism and war and murder and hate, aren't we entitled to a few pick-me-up stories about a do-gooder policeman? 

Well, call me a grump, but I think not actually having to live with terrorism and war and murder is the consolation prize most of us enjoy everyday. Try vacationing in Syria or Gaza sometime and then savor the ultimate in good news—that you don't actually live there!

29 November 2012

happiness by the square foot.

I'm kind of obsessed with House Hunters and House Hunters International on HGTV. For those of you who have lived your lives in a state of pitiable ignorance and are unfamiliar with them, both are low-concept reality shows in which a person (or couple) is looking for a new house or apartment and a realtor shows them three properties (as a televised abstraction of a presumably more exhaustive search). The three properties selected for broadcast are intended to be rough equivalents in consumer desirability, so that some modicum of suspense is generated as to which home the buyers will choose. In most cases, the buyers are couples of some variety—gay or straight, married or living in adulterous sin—and they repeatedly discuss and debate the pros and cons of each house or apartment, until finally they decide to put in an offer on one. (There's no further suspense, by the way. They always get the house they select.) The end of the show is a short epilogue—usually one to six months after the purchase—showing the couple living in their new home and loving the fuck out of it. (There's no suspense here either. They always love the home—or at least they do for the camera.)

Last night I watched an episode in which two vapid, muscular gay men were searching for a new home in the 'flats' of Hollywood. Guy #1 recently moved from his native Denmark to be with his... partner? (I hate that word. It's so businesslike.) He had highlights in his hair, tattoos all over his chest—visible in his cleavage—and an unmistakable air of diffidence about him—probably the consequence of being the 'kept man' in the relationship. Despite this diffidence, I still presume he was the top because the other guy, Guy #2, was more flamboyant (and catty) and discernibly less buff. Guy #2 also appeared to be older—by possibly five to ten years—so my guess is that he woke up one morning, saw his crow's feet, and decided it was time to buy a younger man. But this is all just inappropriate psychological speculation.

Guy #2 was a professional event planner. (Only in Southern California, right?) And apparently he found it too cumbersome to fight the traffic coming down from the Hollywood Hills so he wanted something in the flats, preferably a Spanish style house (yuck, by the way), with the potential for some remodeling projects so that he could put his personal stamp on the place. Now if you know the general formula of the show, you'd suspect that Guy #1 wanted a move-in ready house, and you'd be right. Nine times out of ten the two persons who are house shopping together want at least one thing that's diametrically the opposite of the other. (This builds tension and suspense!) Otherwise, Guy #1 seemed to have few opinions and basically just wandered around mumbling. (In fairness, his English wasn't perfect.) 

Guy #2, on the other hand, had a strong opinion about everything—which is to be expected, I guess, considering that he was the native Angeleno in the couple and was probably footing most of the bill. Being a sort of stereotypical gay man, he wanted Spanish character, a lap pool, and plenty of room for 'entertaining.' (The people on House Hunters always talk about needing tons of space for 'entertaining.' I picture them putting on puppet shows or interpretive dance performances for a room full of appalled guests. Half the time, I talk to the set and say, 'Who are you kidding? You don't have any friends, asshole!' I'm the one talking to the television, but I'm accusing them of being friendless. Did you get the irony there?)

I'm going to digress from the Guys on this particular episode for a moment to talk about the typical wants and 'needs' of your average House Hunters purchaser. After awhile I get sick of hearing about these same things over and over and over again. (It just reinforces my hypothesis that Americans have no style whatsoever and they just want to have what everyone else wants to have—which is generally determined by vulgar upper middle class taste. But I digress within my digression.) What people seem to obsess over are 'open concept' homes; they despise old-fashioned homes that are chopped-up and have separate kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms. Most of them can't live without granite countertops—usually really ugly brownish-tannish ones—in their kitchens and bathrooms. If the realtor dares to bring them to a house with laminate countertops, they can barely keep themselves from vomiting all over the place. How dare you show them this petit-bourgeois trash! (And if there's vinyl flooring or fake hardwoods, you'll be lucky if they don't run out of the house screaming.) Americans also need LOTS of bedrooms. Even if it's only two people, they'll need AT LEAST three bedrooms. AT LEAST. One bedroom had better be a huge-ass master bedroom with attached bath that is in most cases larger than my first apartment. I don't understand the fixation with sprawling master suites. You sleep and you fuck in there. How much space do you need? Why do you need a 'sitting area' in your fucking bedroom? Don't pretend like you're going to wake up in the morning and sit in your bedroom sipping Earl Grey and eating cucumber sandwiches, Lady Higginbotham. You'll roll over and fart and then go out to the kitchen like every other human being. 

But besides a cavernous master bedroom, any bourgeois couple worth their salt will need at least two other bedrooms. One they will use either as a home office or as a place for the wife to do her crafting and watercolors, and the other they will use as a guest room because—remember?—they love entertaining and having guests over. (Even though everybody hates them, including me.) Now, the couple would actually prefer four bedrooms if it were doable, in which case they could have separate home office and crafting rooms. And five bedrooms would be ideal because one day they are planning to spawn and inflict another upper middle class monster on society—so, natch, they'll need a nursery. (Did I mention that each of the five bedrooms should be huge? I mean, you should need binoculars to see from one wall to the other. And the bedrooms should all have closets as large as the bedroom I had when I first moved out of my parents' house.)

There are many things that the average house hunter hates more than pancreatic cancer. An abridged list would include 'popcorn' ceilings, master baths with one only sink (Oh, the humanity...!), appliances that are not stainless steel, carpeting in the living room, and brass chandeliers. Meanwhile, some of the amenities that elicit hands-free orgasms from most buyers are crown molding, vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, a 'garden' bathtub (whatever the hell that is), recessed lighting, 'great rooms' that are larger than Rhode Island,  and homes with 'character' (which the buyers will inevitably gut and turn into assembly-line suburban-style homes). 

Let's return to Guy #1 and Guy #2 now and see how they're doing. The realtor—a very dry gay man seemingly with no joy in his life—shows the couple a corner lot a few blocks from the Sunset Strip. It's a pretty small house, but it's in the cookie-cutter pseudo-Spanish style that much of Southern California seems to believe has 'character' and old world charm. The Guys go inside, however, and the place is a dump. The walls are dingy and dirty. The kitchen has green vinyl tile and dark wood cabinetry from the 70s. The carpeting is filthy and old. In short, it looks like it might have been a drug den or a set for a Harmony Korine film some time in the last decade. 

Now do you want to know how much this house was listed for? This little, dumpy house on a corner lot—corner lots are always undesirable—that would have maybe cost $80K to $90K where I live? It was listed for $850,000. Yes, that's right. A dump in a better area of Los Angeles will cost you nearly a million dollars. Needless to say, I was slightly enraged when I heard this, as any sane human being should be. And then Guy #1, finally voicing an opinion, said during the walk-through, 'Why don't we just get a house with a pool?' (This place didn't have one.) The bitchy realtor tilted his head and looked at him with a mixture of contempt and pity: 'Oh, you couldn't afford a home with a pool in your price point.' Seriously. You've only got $850K to spend? You might as well be living in a cardboard box on Hollywood Boulevard, dudes. I don't know what you're even thinking...!  

28 November 2012

the metaphor heard 'round the world.

Apparently there's thing called a 'fiscal cliff' and we're going to fall off it. (Or whatever.) I know it has to do with the national budget, and I can probably come up with a reasonable hypothesis as to what the phrase means, but I don't really feel like mobilizing any brain cells toward that end. I realize that my lack of interest and concern makes me a full-fledged 'American' in the bovine sense of the term. Whenever I see people get really worked up about shit like this—economic, monetary shit—I can't help but pity them. I know this is the wrong attitude—but I'm speaking on the level of emotional and not intellectual response. I just don't feel as though I was put on this planet to fret about a symbolic monetary value system.

Yeah, easy for me to say, right? My income is such that I don't really have to worry about food or housing or whether I'll be able to afford my recurring porn site subscription. As a consequence, my indifference is egregiously irresponsible—and I admit that. And I believe that cultural decadence finally triumphs not when a society is merely indifferent—but when it becomes indifferent about its indifference. And that's me. I don't even care that I don't even care—about the fiscal cliff, government spending, taxes, blah blah blah. 

You see, I am a human being—and as a human being, I am limited in my capacity to care. I just can't care about everything, and that means that certain things that probably deserve my attention will have to suffer my indifference. (Did you notice the wording of that sentence? Without thinking about it, I implied that my concern and attention is a privilege of sorts. This probably isn't the right attitude, but as the subjective centers of our own little universes, it's difficult to counteract our egotism altogether.) 

Fiscal cliffs just aren't things that arouse my passions. Even though I admitted my irresponsibility earlier, I can't quite bring myself to apologize for it. Generally I'm racked with guilt about any number of things, but economic apathy isn't one of them. I guess I want the poor to be helped, but I feel as though it's a bit like worrying about having terminal cancer while you're on a sinking ship. Don't ask me what's the cancer and what's the sinking ship in that metaphor. It's all just one big knotty obfuscated way of (frankly, my dear) not giving a damn.

27 November 2012

nipsey rustle.

You know how people have certain things that drive them crazy? And I'm not talking about stuff that just annoys them—because annoyance can be rationalized away if you want to make the effort. (Which I don't, if you're asking.) No, the certain things I'm talking about are almost biologically programmed irritants. Like when somebody runs their fingernails down a chalkboard. Why is it that this particular sound is not merely unpleasant, but nearly unbearable for a not-insignificant segment of the population? There has to be something to that, don't you think? I'm not trying to get quasi-mystical here, but just as there seems to be a very general (non-culturally specific) framework for ascertaining beauty,  there's probably an endemic aversion to ugliness—in every form, sound included.

Of course I'm not in love with fingernails on chalkboards, but it doesn't drive me batshit the way it does some people. My own personal 'thing' happens to be the sound corrugated cardboard rubbing against corrugated cardboard. Whenever I'm packing something up in a box to mail and—despite my best precautionary efforts—one edge of the box's flap happens to scrape against the flat side of another flap, my shivering soul is squirted out of the tip-top of my cranium... like ketchup out of a squeezable bottle. That's how serious it is. I don't actually believe in 'souls' in the spiritual sense, but if we metaphorically abstract the non-quantifiable portion of our being into a so-called inner self, then this inner self actually flees my body to escape from the sound. I can't even invent a precise analogy that would make anyone understand what that feeling feels like. All I can say is that my marrow shudders. I'm not exactly sure what that clause means on an entirely literal level, but instinctively I feel that it's apt.

But I didn't come here today to tell you about my corrugated cardboard issues. (I doubt that you'd have the time to explore them fully with me anyway.) I really wanted to talk about a new sound aversion that I've become aware of in the last—I don't know... year or so? Unlike the scraping cardboard, this sound is not only aural; it's also contextual—which I find odd. How can the context of a sound make it more repellent? (What kind of baroque psychology are we humans subject to anyway?) 

Let me explain. I'll be as brief as I can be. There's this woman in my office—no, this isn't Sandy, by the way—who (how do I put this delicately?)... rustles her sack. I'll call this sack rustler Maureen for the sake of convenience. Occasionally Maureen goes out to get her lunch at one of the several fast food restaurants in the area—Wendy's and McDonald's being the two most common—and she brings the food back to her desk to eat. Maybe you're one of those militant gourmands or self-righteous hippies who never eat fast food, so I'll tell you that most of these places toss the food, garbage-like, into a paper bag. It's a very dry, cheap, fibrous, recycled kind of paper. (I'm setting the stage here.) Well, when Maureen carries her sack past my office she grasps it at the very top and allows it to sway a little, in keeping with her leisurely gait. This generates a faint, intimate, sickening rustling sound that gives my psyche a seizure. 

I try to pinpoint what it is about this sound that sends me hurtling into another dimension, but I come up empty—especially since the same rustling in other contexts doesn't especially bother me. It's the looseness of the grasp, the slightness of the sway, and the subtlety of the rustle which together create an effect so galling that I want to run up and kick the sack out of her hands and then stomp on it until her food is pulverized. You think this is weird? I couldn't agree more. I'm actually perplexed myself. 

The word that keeps popping up in my mind in connection with the sack rustling sound is 'intimacy.' Its an exceedingly intimate sound, shared between a woman and her sandwich. It's almost as if there's a latent (and yet abhorrent) sexuality in the gentle crinkling of the recycled paper. It has nothing to do with Maureen herself because she's ignorant of her relationship with the sack. She doesn't interface with the sack sexually, but the objective reality of the noise graduates (or devolves) to a grotesque intimacy beyond the purview of her conscious will. 

It isn't just a noise. It's a noise existing, inextricably, in time and space. It accosts me like a gypsy beggar. I have to shake it off and run away and shower afterwards. I have to find that place inside where the rustling can't find me.

26 November 2012

baby, it's you.

Okay, just to warn you: in the following post I'm going to sound like one of those people. Which is fine. I'm okay with that. I've been one of those people for as long as I can remember. Let's face it... When you scratch my misanthropic, curmudgeonly surface, there's just another layer of creamy, nougat-like Andy Rooneyness. Of course, I'd like to think I'm an eensy bit less idiotic than Andy Rooney was. After all, I don't spend my allotted soapbox time kvetching about zippers or express lanes in supermarkets. My bugaboos tend to be more profound and worthy of in-depth consideration. (While I was typing that, I remembered that I recently rambled on for several paragraphs about being called 'sir' by teenagers. But maybe you've forgotten all about that and are busy recalling my hot-button posts on abortion or American politics.)

Damn. That disclaimer really got out of hand. It's as if the Surgeon General sat down with a pencil and notepad to compose a powerful yet pithy new cigarette warning and ended up writing The Gulag Archipelago

Anyway. What I meant to talk about is babies. Well, maybe not babies so much as the parents of babies—who, in more cases than not, are complete dicks. You know the drill. Two saps fall in 'love' (or something like it), get married (or not), and then dutifully spawn. Most people can't bear the thought of adopting an unwanted child and thereby squandering their own precious genetic stockpile. You can understand why. They might potentially give birth to a messiah or a brain surgeon or a high-fashion model or something—and it just wouldn't be fair to screw the world out of that possibility. That womb must not lie fallow. For the good of humanity.

So what if the world is a shithole that will inevitably turn their gassy bundles of joy into drug-addicted reality TV stars? So what if there are already countless cripples, 'ethnics,' and ugly kids who already need good homes? Josh and Kaylee need to scratch that procreation itch. 

This weekend, as you may or may not know, was Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. So if you are a baby-hating crank like me, your odds of having to spend at least some time around the drooling little gnomes is significantly increased. I am not immune to these odds. My sister 'Andrea' and her husband 'Paul' gave birth to their first child 'Lily' this year. With no exaggeration—or none that I'm willing to admit to—Lily has turned out to be the diapered equivalent of an IED which detonates at every family get-together, splattering blood and viscera all over my mother's earth-tone kitchen wallpaper. Okay. That's not really an accurate comparison, but what I'm trying to get across is that this baby has changed everything. Forever. She's like a vacuum that not only sucks up everyone's attention, but their identities too. Lily has turned my dictatorial, ultra-right-wing father into a baby-talking, face-making retard. (Which, when I really think about it, is actually an upgrade. What am I complaining about here exactly?) 

I should be fair here. I have nothing against Lily. She's actually okay—as far as babies go. Sure, she's a shiftless layabout who can't even eat without requiring a round of applause afterwards, but she doesn't cry a lot, she's even-tempered, and she isn't butt ugly. It's her parents that are the assholes. They're the ones who fuss over her constantly. We get it already! You had a baby! She's wonderful. She's the baby to end all babies. I know that other people think they've had babies before, but nobody has had a baby like you had a baby. You just tore that shit up. Innumerable generations of second-rate babies have littered the baby testing grounds—until finally you crapped out the perfect infant. 

I know this post doesn't exactly support the assertion I am about to make, but I am a reasonable human being. (Sometimes. Occasionally. Once in awhile.) But I just can't imagine wanting to surrender my life to be the on-call ass-wiper for a bawling lump of gelatinous flesh that's probably just going to end up being an asshole like 99.467% of the population. I really do have a natural propensity for self-negation, but even I have limits.

The upshot of the holiday I spent with the First-Time Parents From Hell is that I'm thankful I've eluded the urge to procreate. And I'm guessing the world at large shares in this gratitude—because any child I raised might be destined to mount clocktowers with unregistered firearms someday. 

So, yeah. I'm basically doing you a favor. (You're welcome.)

20 November 2012

dreams deferred.

Hey. In my previous post, I said that I'm not some loose cannon, 'disgruntled' employee planning to ventilate my coworkers with an AK-47. And this is true. Very true. But I have to admit that—for a long time now—I've intended to carry out the following plan on my last day of work here. Can you imagine the look on his face when he reaches into that drawer for a file folder?

the potluck blues.

Today is my least favorite workday of the year. It's the day our office holds its annual Thanksgiving potluck—which translates mainly to a bunch of boorish men hanging around together talking about sports, right-wing politics, and other conversational topics that make me want to commit harakiri while a handful of women fulfill their god-ordained gender roles by managing the food preparation and the clean-up. Meanwhile, I grit my teeth and hunker down in my office as though it's a bomb shelter protecting me from the atomic blast. 

I don't want anything to do with this tradition, but there's really nothing to do about it. You see, they actually schedule the potluck so that everybody is able to be there. I have in the past called in sick on the day, but you can only do that so much before your recurring illness is interpreted (correctly) as a deliberate snub. 

Every day of the year I radiate a white-hot toxic hatred for all these people, but my coworkers' sensitivity to subtler social cues is clearly underdeveloped. Maybe it's just pure egotism. Maybe they find it impossible to believe that anyone would not like them and enjoy their company. But I truly believe that anything short of locking them all in the back storage room and setting the building on fire would be misinterpreted as a personal quirk. (I've run through that fire-setting fantasy a few times in my head. The last words I inevitably hear are my office neighbor 'Sandy' crying out in her Michigan accent, 'You poop!' That's what she calls me when I'm unamused by her cutesy jokes and emails. If Sandy were an inanimate object, she'd be a Thomas Kinkade painting or an embroidered sweater set.)

My office looks out onto a small courtyard where a few of the men are already congregating. I've closed my blinds so I don't have to see them, but they're nonsensical chatter occasionally crescendos so that the window seals are powerless to keep it out. When I'm daydreaming in front of a spreadsheet—like I was a few minutes ago—I try to determine which one of them I hate the most. I recall past incidents, parse data, compile the pros and the cons... but it's no use. Just as I couldn't pick a favorite animal, I couldn't choose a most loathsome coworker. Each has his or her own set of deplorable qualities—and these qualities are just too difficult to compare and contrast on a one-to-one basis. 

I'm sure you all know what the upshot of today is, however. Because I have to endure this Thanksgiving potluck every year, I am all the more thankful for the four-day weekend which follows. I suck the marrow out of each of those days. I roll around naked, with complete abandon, in the non-presence of these horrible people. I even—to some extent—forget that this lousy place even exists. (What a cruel Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving!)

I don't want you to think I'm one of those squirrely employees who sits around at his desk all day plotting a workplace shooting. I would never do such a thing. I'm not ambitious enough. I'm a lazy man... to say nothing of the pesky moral compunctions. I'll just continue to silently hate these stupid fucks like any normally repressed human being would—until one day the acids burn a hole through my stomach and leak into my body. These clueless saps won't even realize what they've done to me when I drown in my own bilious hatred.

19 November 2012

something special in the air.

What a stupid fucking place to put an airport! Denver, I mean. It's got those stupid mountains all around it—and doesn't it snow there all the time? Why doesn't a major airline just put their hub in the swirling eye of Jupiter? 

As those of you who read this blog religiously know, I am not exactly a screaming, backstage-pass-holding, titty-flashing fan of airplane travel. Although my parents often greet major turbulence, emergency landings, and engine trouble on their flights with a shrug of the shoulder, there is a genetic precedent for my fears. My Aunt Barbara is afraid of storms, heights, and (most of all) flying. She just turned seventy but has only flown maybe two or three times in her entire life—despite her love of travel and her desire to visit many places that are only reasonably accessible by air travel. Instead, she's had to settle for shorter car trips around the Midwest and the occasional longer trip via rail to the farther reaches of this nation. (I'll bet—statistically speaking—there's a significantly greater chance of being in a train derailment on Amtrak than there is of encountering any major mechanical problem on an airplane. Amtrak gives you the best of both worlds: third world travel with first world rudeness.)

So although we share a common fear, my Aunt Barbara and I cope in different ways: she, by strict avoidance, and I, by deferring my terror until a later date. You see, usually I plan my trips months in advance, so the David Who Books The Flight has the luxury of enjoying the idea of a getaway while at the same time saving up all of the accompanying anxiety for a latter-day David—also known as the David Who Actually Has To Board The Fucking Plane. As you can plainly see, the David Who Books is a kind of an asshole who, time after time, lets the David Who Boards do all the dirty work while enjoying none of the benefits. 

As we approached Denver on the way home, the Captain made an announcement. Whenever I hear that routine preamble 'This your Captain speaking...' I always brace myself for the unspeakable. The wing just broke off! The engine is on fire! The pilot is actually a high-ranking Al-Qaeda functionary and this is his scripted 'fuck you' address to an Airbus full of infidels! Of course, the Captain is usually just informing us that we're making our initial descent or thanking SkyMiles members for joining him today... but that's no reason to let down your guard, y'know?

As I was saying, we were approaching Denver and everything was going smoothly—or as smoothly as can be expected when you're in a giant megaton dildo, defying the intuitive laws of nature and common sense—when all of a sudden the Captain told us he was having the flight attendants prepare the cabin for landing early because he was expecting 'moderate turbulence' during our descent. 

Moderate turbulence. What does that even mean? Moderate to whom? How am I supposed to calibrate my expectations when dealing with such an ambiguous and relative modifier? But wait... 'moderate' doesn't sound so bad, right? When we talk about political moderates, we're talking about those wishy-washy middle-of-the-roaders without any strong convictions. Nothing to be frightened of there. Merriam-Webster defines 'moderate' as 'avoiding extremes of behavior or expression.' That means that the Captain's warning of moderate turbulence precludes any extremities. We won't be batted out of the sky like a spiked volleyball—it'll just be a little bumpy—like a ride down a gravel road. Maybe a few potholes here and there, but it's not as if we're driving off a cliff. 

Then again, I'm assuming the Captain is using the word 'moderate' correctly. Why would I foolishly assume such a thing? Most people born and raised in the United States cannot be considered skillful in their deployment of the English language. Their use of multisyllabic words like 'moderate' is approximate at best. They gravitate toward whatever sounds correct rather that what is in fact correct... 'Moderate' sounds like a word that conveys the seriousness of the turbulence without panicking the passengers... doesn't it? So maybe it's more of a rhetorical device than a rigorous attempt to get at the truth. ('We can't handle the truth!!')

As the bumpiness started, I put on my game face. Of course, I'm not exactly sure what my game face looks like—maybe I look like Marty Feldman after a coke binge—but I try to seem impassive, calm... bored almost. Oh, what? A little turbulence? How frightfully banal! I just hope they land this thing soon because I have to play croquet with the Vanderbilts in an hour. 

Okay. Wait. Now the turbulence is getting to be a little more than I'm comfortable with. I will have to resort to some kind of diversionary tactic... I know! The Sky Mall catalog! I will seem to be fully engrossed in these electric nose hair trimmers in the Sky Mall catalog. Let me read about them carefully and nod my head at both their practicality and affordability. This is definitely the most fascinating electric nose hair trimmer that I have ever seen in all my days. I should make a mental note to share this useful information with my friends and family when we land. Who cares about planes crashing in a fiery wreckage when you've laid eyes on an electric nose hair trimmer like this? This is the Valhalla of electric nose hair trimming. It's like seeing the face of God... 

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON NOW? SOMEBODY, HELP ME. WE'RE GOING DOWN! This airplane is bouncing around like a tit at a wet t-shirt contest. (I know that simile is a rerun, but it's the perfect evocation of turbulence.)  

It's okay! Keep telling yourself it's okay. Keep your game face on.  Sky Mall catalog. Focus. Quit holding onto the arm rest with that death grip. The person in 12E is getting suspicious. He's on to you. He knows you're shrieking like Aretha Franklin on the inside—and he's amused by it. Don't be his entertainment. Look at this head massager. If one had a head that needed massaging, well... this one would certainly do the trick. I wonder how it would feel on one's genitals.

HOLY SHIT. IT'S GETTING WORSE. They'll be scraping me off the side of a mountain with a shovel. What the fuck are you looking at, 12E? Do you have some kind of problem with a perfectly normal fear in the face of non-intuitive laws of physics? I hope the contents of the overhead bin have shifted and they clock you in your big fat head when we land. Maybe someone has an anvil in their carry-on. An anvil or a bowling ball. 

'Flight attendants, prepare for landing.'

WHAT IN THE FUCKING FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? PREPARE FOR LANDING? You're going to try to land this piece of shit with all this bumpiness going on? Mother Nature's gonna swat us against the runway like a housefly. You're insane! Let's just get back in the air and fly someplace else. I'd rather land in Baghdad on a calm, windless day than in Denver with all this 'moderate turbulence' going on. Have you even lowered the landing gear? Because I didn't hear the landing gear get lowered. Maybe I should press the flight attendant call button to tell her that I didn't hear the landing gear. Maybe they forgot about it. Maybe I will be the hero who saves this flight by reminding them. (Maybe I'll be the one they take away in a straitjacket at the arrival gate.)


We've landed! We've landed!

We're safe!

Then the David Who Books lets loose a giant, jaw-unhinging yawn and says, 'That was no big deal.' He leaves the David Who Boards shivering in a puddle of cold sweat on the cabin floor, clutching the mangled Sky Mall catalog like a talisman or a gnarled magical root that wards off injury and death.

15 November 2012

the sound and the fieri.

In order to commemorate the New York Times' catty review of Guy Fieri's restaurant in Time Square—which apparently qualifies as major news in this strange world we live in—I decided to do some beautiful art (see above) for your entertainment. The review complained that his toasted marshmallows (not a euphemism) tasted like fish. That's because they dab them in the dewy clefts of Fieri's groin after he walks up five flights of stairs. It's the secret recipe. The question no one bothered to ask was why toasted marshmallows are being served in a restaurant in the first place. Exactly what else is on the menu? Cookie dough batter and sour cream and onion Pringles?

I've hated Guy Fieri for a long time now, so I experienced no small amount of schadenfreude when he was called on the carpet for his formaldehyde-flavored beverages on the Today show this morning. Even if it's libel, it's libel for a good cause, I say. I mean, just look at the man. Don't you just want to stick his whole head in a deep fryer? I'll bet his flesh would be tough and gristly if you tried to eat it though. (That's just idle speculation.)

with apologies to penguins.

Yesterday's post really got me thinking about how horrible teenagers are. And yes—thank you very much—I'm fully aware that dismissing teenagers as idiotic and inexplicable is usually recognized as a tell-tale symptom of being old and out-of-touch—but I have to admit that I've always hated teenagers (in a theoretical sense), even when I was one. There's just something too bitter in the irony that when we think we know everything, we actually know nothing at all—except maybe how to huff Wite-Out® or dress in ways that will shame us photographically for decades to come. 

Once when I was within hearing distance of two factory-assembled teenage girls, I noticed how many times they seasoned their Socratic dialogue with the word 'like.' If 'like' were salt, they'd both have hypertension by now. Admittedly, very few of us—even as wise and wizened adults—are immune to adding place-fillers to our conversations, like 'you know,' 'uh,' and 'I'm dead inside,' but I'd like to think I don't have to riddle a simple declarative sentence with a machine gun barrage of 'likes.' What amazed me the most from the conversation, however, was how many words these girls strung together to say so little. They could talk for a full ten minutes and the net communication was that Haiyllee was planning on going to Jaaysonn's party next Friday.

I know this sounds harsh, but I think teenagers could benefit from a war to serve in or a famine to survive by eating diseased horse meat. Nowadays they're too busy with handjobs and blowjobs when they should be eking out a meager existence with the hazardous jobs that made the youth of the nineteenth century so mature, responsible, and sickly—like coal mining, precision factory work, and locating land mines. I can't imagine what depth of experience this generation is missing out on by never having had a best friend die from tuberculosis or a cancerous, mutated mother who has to live under a vapor barrier from inhaling too much silica dust. What happened to the good old days?

I had an idea (or a fantasy, rather) that when American citizens turn twelve they could be shipped to Antarctica where they would have to use their wits and physical wherewithal to survive until they were twenty-two, at which point they would be allowed to return. I know. It's an awful idea, isn't it? I would never want to do that to those poor penguins. And can you imagine how they'd trash the whole continent down there? The place would be littered with One Direction posters, bongs made out of ice, and makeshift cum rags. The upside of the fantasy is that few teenagers would survive this decade-long endurance test. (Actually none would—because Antarctica lacks the resources for a human being to survive in the wild for long periods of time.) But if one of them did somehow manage to survive, imagine what strength of character he or she would have! I'm sorry, but there's just no iPhone app for that kind of thing...

14 November 2012

to sir with love.

Although the following post isn't particular to my travels, my recent trips hither and thither have caused me to zero in on a tendency—a trend, you might say—that otherwise might have escaped my notice. 

More and more people, I find, are addressing me as 'sir,' and I find it disturbing and unacceptable. When I first went through airport security on Friday, a middle-aged female TSA agent said to me, 'Thank you, sir' as she handed me back my boarding pass and license. Well, I don't know about you, but I'd actually prefer a surly, uncommunicative agent to one who bestows honorifics upon me that are reserved for the aged and infirm. I don't wish to be 'respected' (if that's the right word) by means of this tiny, grating word. 

Similarly, teenagers working part-time in the service industry all over this country seem to imagine that I'm a sir. Since when do teenagers ever try to be polite—even when their jobs proscribe it? I'll tell you when... When they see a droopy, ashen, broken-down husk of a man hobble up to the cash register with a cane in one hand and an antique ear trumpet in the other. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, of course I am—I don't own an ear trumpet—but that's the way I picture myself every time some spotty kid in an logo-embroidered smock hands me my change. (They're probably even disgusted that sometimes I pay with cash. Who does such a thing? I might just as well try to barter with animal pelts and loose tobacco.)

Do you get what I'm saying here? If you could see who I am deep down in the furthest reaches of this mortal coil, you'd know for sure that I wasn't a sir. I'm just a guy. That's all. I'm just some guy who is trying to board a 737 or get an oil change or order a burrito. There's no need to hand me a scepter and crown my head with a chaplet made of ivy leaf. And don't you dare look at me from across that great distance that separates a young person reveling in his hopes and dreams and an old(er) person trying to remember where he set down his keys... because you listen to me: I've looked across that distance from the other direction before—and when I was standing where you're standing right now, glaring with contempt at the Adult World, I sure as hell didn't refer to anybody as sir. Why do people need to be referred to at all? 'Thank you' does the job just as well as 'thank you, sir'—unless you're in the military, I suppose. And no, I don't fucking need any help taking my groceries to the car, you giant sebaceous gland. 

13 November 2012

mineness versus yoursness.

Let's talk about things. Not just any ol' things—but the things that we call our own. In other words, our possessions—even though I don't really care for the word 'possessions' because, in this age of politically correct namby-pambyism, it has been tainted with a negative connotation. You see, when I assert my possession of any given thing, I attempt to delimit it not only as mine, but sometimes also as not-yours. Nowadays—at least in 'enlightened' circles—this has an air of selfishness and consumerism about it—deservedly or not. It's become distasteful to like material objects too much because it reveals your shallowness and shameful incapacity in the face of a marketing juggernaut that endlessly convinces you that you need more things—when in fact you may not even really want them, let alone need them. 

Think about it: Usually when there is some sort of major natural disaster, you turn on the news and see a guy with bad teeth and no shirt standing in front of a pile of two-by-fours and detritus that used to be his double-wide. When prompted for a response of some kind by a news reporter, instead of barking, 'My home is a landfill! How the fuck do you think I feel?' like any sane person should, the victim plays nice and, as if reading from the script, says something like: 'Possessions can be replaced. I'm just glad all of my family is safe.' 

I call bullshit. And I'm not discounting the part about being glad that his family is safe. I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt on that score—which is a major benefit if you've actually seen his family—but I am calling bullshit on pretending material possessions aren't important. Because they are. It's just a fact. Anything that we want to possess is important to us—to varying degrees, of course—but there's always some spiritual residue inside us that tries to deny this fact, as if we might be diminished in our selfness somehow by our materialist proclivities. Now don't get all bent out of shape and think that I'm saying that objects are as valuable or more valuable than people. This isn't a rerun of MTV Cribs, after all. I'm only saying that in addition to the value we place in ourselves and  others, there should be strong but subordinate value placed on our possessions—which, to the extent that they do provide us with pleasure without diverting our efforts for a more profound, philosophical happiness, are useful accessories of the smaller world that we build around ourselves.

In other words, objects should never define my happiness, but they should increase my pleasure—when and if my pleasure doesn't interfere with my higher personal goals and ambitions. In other, other words, stuff is good. Or it can be. There is nothing essentially wrong with it, and there is no need to demonize the materialist, consumerist impulse when it's restrained by a developed sense of priority and discipline. If you argue that most people don't have a developed sense of priority and discipline, I would be inclined to agree with you—but these personal failings contribute to countless problems, some of them far worse than consumerist appetite. As a point of comparison, blaming consumerism for the consumer's lack of discretion and control is similar to blaming alcohol for alcoholism. The argument doesn't work. The affliction inhabits the body and not the symptom.

If you were predicting that this long, windy defense of material possessions (and material possessiveness in general) was nothing more than a cheap rationalization of my own attitudes, you're sharper than I gave you credit for. You see, just this past weekend, while I was traveling on the other side of the country, my luggage was stolen. Some of you who know me are tired of hearing about it already—and will likely write this off as more dead-horse-beating—but when has that ever stopped me before? I've lost my iPad, a wedding gift, a new pair of shoes, several articles of clothing, including a favorite sweater and a new jacket, a phone charger, three prescription medications, a keyring which included my house key, my car key, and the key to my office, at least one loose ten dollar bill, a cellphone charger, and a book. I suppose if you're going to be one of those pricks who likes to compare a loss like this to—I don't know—the Holocaust or children being raped by Catholic priests in order to 'put things in perspective,' then you're probably going to think this is no big flipping deal. After all, I'm not poor. Although I don't come home every night and roll around naked in money, sweet money, I can replace most of what I lost without too much hardship. But at the risk of sounding melodramatic, there's something else at stake here: some person out there doesn't recognize the mineness of my things—or I should say that he does recognize it, but he flouts the customs and laws of his culture just because he wants to sell an iPad for crack. (That's just my go-to motivation for theft of any kind, by the way.) I'm am going to allude to Plato's theory (via Socrates) of the social contract which stipulates that since we are aware of the laws of our nation (for the most part) and since we inherently derive certain benefits from living there, we are therefore bound—in an implicit contract—to observe and respect (within limits) the prohibitions of that nation. Of course, this argument is spurious in all kinds of ways, especially today—for example, to the extent that (1) many people lack the means to leave a given nation, (2) other people are kept in the dark about the laws they may break (consider the Stalinist Soviet Union as a for-instance here), and (3) (most relevantly) most of the livable space on this planet is defined as a nation with its own laws, many of which are fundamentally the same. (A law against recreational murder is one that comes to mind.) How can any person hope to flee all of the contracts that govern this planet at the insistence of his conscience? 

But wait a minute here. Why am I discounting an argument (i.e., the implied contract that bound Socrates to Athens and to his own death sentence) that I am attempting to use rhetorically to establish my right to whine, bitch, and moan continuously about my purloined duffle bag? Maybe you wouldn't have noticed the vulnerabilities of the argument (not all of which are mentioned above) or would simply have taken my word for it without giving it much thought. I didn't want you to think my feelings about being robbed were just understandable—but rather that they were philosophically justifiable. But the more that I mull it over, the more I wonder why I even care what you think. I mean, who are you? Any person with internet access may possibly read this blog entry, including the thief.  I didn't say it was likely, you understand. Only possible. And this momentous potentiality makes a fool of me. Here I am—employing shaky logic to convince (possibly) the thief that I have a right to be angry that my things were taken even though 'polite society' nags at us to be grateful for whatever scraps from the table of fortune that we're thrown. Listen to my dad's little riff on this attitude: he would often say, 'Once I was sad because I had no shoes, but then I met a man who had no feet.' Bullshit! This can regress infinitely until we have no right to complain ever—because for every lousy situation x, there's always a lousier situation x + 1. Whoohoo! Does this kind of relativism make people feel better? I can understand using it from time to time to get oneself out of a funk, but in what way does feeling grateful that I have feet preclude me from being sad I don't have shoes? Are my feet not frostbitten because I've hit the jackpot in comparison to the guy with stumps on the ends of his legs? No way.

Since this thread of the argument seems to be going nowhere, I'll just speak directly to the thief who is probably smoking the hell out of some crack on my dime in Santa Barbara, California. Since you're potentially out there, you can potentially experience a pang of conscience because you realize you've wronged me—and in so doing, all of society, which derives its relative stability and cohesiveness from the maintenance and enforcement of its laws. If you experience said pang of conscience, please notify me and we can arrange for the return of my things—and the restoration of the mineness to them. I know. It's ridiculous that I have to appeal to your sense of decency to give me back my stuff—as if I'm asking you for a favor—but this is what our world has come to... In order to sweeten the pot a little, I'll let you keep my underwear and my favorite comb if you help to preserve all of society by giving me back my shit!

06 November 2012


1. Election Day

To vote in the presidential election today feels about as momentous as the Pepsi Challenge. Either way, it's still cola. 

2. Cola

I've been trying all these years to decide what cola tastes like, and just today I've decided it tastes like the first gradation of dusk in late August after a hard rain. The air is musky and so heavy you wear it like a fur. You can't see anybody around, but children's voices curl around every corner and echo through a shell of space all around me. The summer's closing up now. The slats are waiting to be nailed against the portal there. There's one eye open in the elementary school down the street—bright and watchful, it's from a checkerboard of overhead lights in room 112, where Mr. Poggioli tacks up concrete nouns to the corkboard.

After I decided what cola tastes like, I looked it up—y'know, for a second opinion. This is what I found out:

Cola is a carbonated beverage that was originally flavored and caffeinated by the kola nut, as well as by vanilla and other ingredients. However, most colas now use other flavoring (and caffeinating) ingredients with a similar taste. 

The internet is so drearily literal.

3. Caffeine

When I write without caffeine, they're just words, stacked at angles like multicolor blocks. When I write with caffeine, they're just words, blended like a heavy stew.

4. Words

5. Asterisks

You're born. You grow. You live. You work. You spawn. You age. You wait. You die.*

*What if there's an asterisk? Maybe this would all be mitigated if we just knew something else that we don't? And I'm not talking about god or faith or astrology or crystals—I'm talking about something real that we can't quite see because it's outside of the text... But isn't that religion?—by definition?**

**No, it's not. When someone explains something to us that we don't understand, his explanation isn't religious revelation. It's a logical mapping of interrelated elements. But who is the logical mapper? And who is the explainer? Aren't we tip-toeing around the concept of god? You can't change what something is just by renaming it.***

***I'm not changing anything. If you want to call it god, then call it god—but whatever it is, it doesn't lug around all that baggage you associate with divinity. It doesn't shoot lightning bolts out of its fingertips or turn wine into blood. It isn't a magician or a gypsy fortune teller. It's just someone who sees things clearly for once.****

****Well, okay. Maybe it can shoot lightning bolts out of its fingertips. Maybe it's everything you say it is. But if he's withholding the endnotes, then to hell with him anyway. I want to be mitigated now—I won't play games for anybody.*****

*****I'll sometimes play games. Yes—I'll sometimes play games—but they're my own and I am their god. I'm suddenly all of the world at once.

6. Endnotes

Footnotes > Endnotes

Who wants all that flipping?

7. Counterpoint 

05 November 2012

unbearable lightness of being.

 L' Être et le néant.


Why even get out of bed?

Table for one.

The sound of a phone not ringing.

a bear market.

Guilt? You want to talk about guilt? I actually feel sorry for things. Not just living things, like trees, plankton, and ants, but also consumer products as well. Quite a few years ago, I was in a lousy, now-defunct discount department store for reasons I can't remember (or prefer not to), and I happened to walk past a display of stuffed bears in the toy department. Now these bears weren't manufactured by some big name toy manufacturer like Gund or Fisher-Price. And the bear itself wasn't recognizable as a particular character whose name and likeness would be subject to trademark. It was just a generic, cheaply-made, probably toxic nondescript bear. The problem was this: There were about a hundred of these bears (I'm exaggerating for effect, of course—but there were a lot of them, okay?) in a wire bin in a dark, dreary back corner of the store that nobody visited. You can picture it, can't you? There's this big, cage-like bin of bears under a flickering bank of fluorescent lights in a dingy drop ceiling with faint water stains. Of course, the bears were no doubt chucked in the bin by some asshole teenager, so they were lodged within the wire perimeter at strange and cruel angles. One bear's feet would be in another bear's face—and this bear's snout would be in that bear's ass. You get the idea. It was just a giant, depressing retail metaphor for sadness, loneliness, indifference, neglect—all of the emotional biggies, really. And when I saw this bin of bears—on clearance, no less—I instantly became miserable. I endowed each and every one of those bears with a human emotional response—and that response suspiciously resembled many of the worst feelings from my childhood—when my mother and father would argue day after day and leave me and my sister to (emotionally and physically) fend for ourselves. Yes, I know... the psychology behind it all is a neon cliché, but clichés become clichés because there is some prevalent truth in them. Because my feelings are painful but ordinary, does that mean that I'm not entitled to express them in some way? Does the triteness of a psychological complex preclude its relevance? I guess it goes without saying that I was compelled to buy one of the bears in order to liberate him from his predicament. I wasn't hoping for anything like catharsis because I knew that there were ninety-nine other  bears suffering because I didn't choose them... because, you see, I want to save everyone and everything on this planet—and if I can't, then I'll never be happy. I inhabit every human, every animal, every object that's lonely or forgotten. I'm a neurotic ghost skittering from form to form, loaning my affects to dead matter. This isn't altruism, this isn't generosity, this isn't the aspiration of a new-age, freeform Jesus Christ. This is the worst kind of selfishness. I'm trying to deal with everything I feel by giving it away, by working through it at a distance—with a stuffed bear or a dying tree or even a piece of trash. It sounds like a joke—but twenty years later, I still have the bear, and if I got rid of it one day, it would be like doing an injury to myself worse than cutting or hitting or burning. I would suddenly become what I was protecting the bear from all these years, and I can't let that happen. Anything else but that. When I get home from work today, I will take a picture of the bear and show it to you. Maybe you'll see what I mean. Then again, maybe you won't. 

04 November 2012

notes from a baby killer.

Sure. To a certain extent, I get it. These people believe that fetuses are endowed with a 'spirit' (or, in a less religious sense, a 'human selfhood') of some kind that is fully realized at the time of conception—and furthermore that these spirits, which are neither lesser nor greater than those of persons already born into the world, have an intrinsic right to live. I know it's somewhat taboo for a pro-choicer (e.g., me) to concede that there is some kind of valid internal logic to the pro-life position—but I can't deny that if you happen to buy into a particular religious sense of personhood (which I don't), then a set of conclusions must—almost necessarily—follow... one of them being that abortion is wrong. 

I think this puts the secular and religious world at odds in a way that can't be reconciled. (And when I say 'secular' I'm not talking only about people who don't believe in god—but also those who have non-doctrinal or exclusively personal sense of the spiritual.) If I must argue with a Catholic that abortion is perfectly okay (which I don't wish upon myself, by the way), then I must argue against his whole ontology. I must convince the Catholic that his whole (Catholic) worldview is flawed. That's a pretty tough sell for a committed Catholic who has given himself or herself over to the notion of faith. I mean, how do you use rational argument as a persuasive tool in situations like these when religious faith often requires the believer to make the 'leap,' so to speak, and to willfully disregard the rational?

What I find more perplexing are the contradictions. I was driving home from work a few days ago, and I saw a minivan with three bumper stickers: one was 'pro-life,' one was pro-Romney, and the third said: 'I'm CATHOLIC and I vote.' Okay, that's interesting... I want to pull that person aside (in theory, but not reality) and say to her (it was a woman driving): What about the other aspects of Catholicism? Did you know for instance that the Catholic Church is opposed to capital punishment? (Do you even care?)

And then I'd expect her to say—if she were halfway intelligent—and not in so many words—that the American political system is binary. It's strictly an either/or proposition. We can't expect to have everything, and we must make difficult choices. She might conceivably say: if I were put in a position of choosing between one candidate who worked to preserve the lives of innocent unborn babies and another candidate who worked to preserve the lives of convicted criminals, there's no question about it. The babies win.

But this is probably a ridiculous argument anyway because I'm not aware of Obama being anti-capital punishment. Maybe he's not enthusiastically for it, but I don't know of a black-or-white stand he's made against it. So, the driver of the minivan might argue, this isn't even an available choice...

But what then about the Catholic Church's position against offensive war? Remember Iraq? Remember Afghanistan? Yeah, yeah... I know what you'll say already, lady. You'll say those were defensive wars because the Taliban was protecting Osama bin Laden who attacked our country and because Saddam Hussein was in fact violating our—er, I mean, the U.N.'s decree. Or if not a 'decree,' then whatever it's called when the U.S. bullies the world into having its way. In this way of thinking, maybe Hitler's war was a defensive war against the Jews he saw contaminating and/or destroying his nation and culture, right? (Why does someone always have to bring up the Nazis in cases like this?) (To show that the rationale for almost any war can be contorted in such a way to make it seem 'defensive.' That's why.) It's no use. You actually believe that the U.S.—the most powerful nation in the world—is being threatened by a handful of men to such an extent that we have the right to bomb the hell out of innocent people who know nothing about the politics that have ensnared them in a daily quest for survival. You really believe that? You—a woman who has had access to education and free speech and many of the intellectual luxuries that people in Afghanistan and Iraq couldn't even conceive of. This is what it comes down to? We've 'liberated' them against their wills? We're the parents, I guess, and we know when to horse whip our children when it's for their own good...

Or how about the Catholic Church's—or almost any Christian church's exhortation to help the poor and needy? Do you think Christ would be against socialized medical care—that he'd stand around protesting health care for the poor while wearing an Uncle Sam hat? You know, I'm always reluctant to embrace the 'What Would Jesus Do?' position because (1) it assumes that we can definitively say what an ancient historical figure might or might not do and (2) it already buys into the premise that one (particular) religious figure should dictate the norms, customs, and laws of a nation committed to religious freedom two thousand years after his death. I won't buy into that premise even if it serves my purposes here. 

So I'm stuck here, without an entryway onto your ideology—because the premise of your positions is invalid for me, and the premise of my positions is invalid for you. How can we hope to come to a pragmatic compromise when we aren't even talking about the same thing. I am talking about ending a pregnancy. You are talking about murdering a baby. What will make it okay for the government to tell a woman she can't control her own body? Nothing. What will make it okay for an infant to be murdered? Nothing.

We just have to wait until one side is strong enough to finish the other side off. What we're waiting for, in other words, is total war. Normally I'd trust—as an article of faith—that our society would become more progressive as time goes—but I don't know anymore. It's been forty years. Forty years! And they're still talking about turning back the clock. And they're still talking about murder. And they're still working out their neuroses with angry gods and Aryan angels in pressed satin robes...