Because the children are our future...

If you only wash your pants a third as much as you think you should, by the time you die, you'll have used way less water.


A strong cat without claws.

"Sid [Vicious] did manage to draw cheers when he removed his shirt and revealed the torso of a 90-lb. weakling."
~Time Magazine, January, 1978.


This is the writing of the Whiner’s Bio.

Some of the homies hustling,
Some of my players is pimps,
Some of the homies struggling.
~E-40, “Big Ballin’ with My Homies.”

In spite of the absence of any such thing, my last eight months have carried with them the same emotional tone as a breakup.

Not a bad breakup, the kind that rattles and rearranges your world. Just a mild, inevitable breakup that you can’t move past for whatever stupid reason.

And, in the great tradition of idiot suckers, I’m addicted to the low. I couldn’t be looking forward to going back to Baltimore next week to look for a place to live any less.

It’s sort of embarrassing when I look at it objectively, because it’s a confluence of happy circumstances. Some people who read a paper I wrote two and a half years ago want to pay me $22,000 a year to read books and ogle senators’ daughters, which is twice as much as I’ve ever made in a year in my life. My dad’s motivational speaking endeavors have won him the friendship of a Baltimore Harbor realtor who is going to set up appointments at apartments (ha!) and drive me around to them. I have a friend in Chicago with whom I’m going to spend the 4th of July, and who is going to drive me to the airport the next morning, saving $300 and a four hour layover versus flying out of Cedar Rapids. My parents are like, "don't worry about money, if you find an expensive place you like, we'll help you out" despite the fact that I've yet to spend a single day in my life as a self-sufficient, self-supported supersleuth.

Why does it sound so awful to me? Well, for one thing, it annoys me that I have to leave my house. I’m moving in roughly a month. That, to me, is terrifying. Terrifying. And I’m going to be spending a week of that month in Chicago, two days in Clear Lake, and two days in Baltimore, leaving me with scant more than two weeks to lounge in my recliner, which, let’s face it, is all I’ve really done for the last two years. When I wasn’t busy blogging, or hating somebody. Shit is scary.

Compounded with the fact that I’m going to grad school, and 90% of my experience with grad students is directly related to one-upmanship. Oh, that you could have been a fly on the wall when all the prospectives were gathered together with some booze in them. All but a couple all but pulled out their cocks and slapped them on the bar to compare. It was, of course, pretty fucking awesome in its way, a bunch of people trying to figure out their place in a pecking order in a pretty uniquely level setting ("well, we all got in... what next?"). I was, of course, the worst (as in most insufferable) of all of them. I’m bad enough as an amateur smartypants who doesn’t know anything about anything. What the fuck am I going to be like when I employ snark, which is another word for critical inquiry, for a living?

So this is a concern. Also of concern is the prospect of homelessness, or living too far from campus to walk every day, which is a legitimate worry, since I’ve waited until three weeks before moving to actually bother to find a place to live. Good move.

In the last eight months, nearly everyone I know (and actually like) except my two best friends has managed to drift into serious, committed relationships that looked like longshots at best or misfires at worst a year ago but now seem to be imbued with the semi-staying power of middle-American oddball romance. Lucky love, upping the stakes and heading either towards total disaster or connubial bliss. Meanwhile, I’ve just kind of been falling apart while my life and I drift inexorably towards the biggest change we have seen so far. Grad-studentry, with an emphasis on self-sacrifice in the interest of great gains in knowledge, and each increase in knowledge a new wound, as Byron sniffed. All following maybe the loneliest, saddest epoch of my life so far. Certainly the most absurd.

This is scary to me, because I’ve never actually tried at school, and I’ve never really made friends in school, always extracurricularly, due to my hatred of English majors who act like English majors. And all the sudden I’m going to have to try really hard, and what if I don’t know how, and how am I supposed to try and also make friends? What a stupid worry. This is why it was interesting, to me, to discover that the eye problem I have is a sanctioned, legitimate learning disability. Both because it makes me seem more impressive – ooh, look at him, he’s a grad student and he did it all with an undiagnosed learning disability, like an underdog story about a minor league ballplayer who survived a childhood bout of shingles to bat .223 in double-A – and because, it totally gives me an excuse to fucking fail balls-out, not necessarily because I can’t cut it, more because I’m just too nervous to try. Which I may or may not be. It’s early yet.

So I’m just talking around it because I am incapable of processing anything as enormous as this, and I’m all but worthless if I can’t process something. Which is why, if you read this far, you didn’t actually read anything.

What happens when the world suffers a loss unawares?

I was going to spend today recording a fuzzy dancepunk cover of “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal. But then I remembered I lent all my drum mics to a band in Chicago, and my drum machines don’t swing in 6/8.

What if Shakespeare had been trampled by Clydesdales? What if Enrico Fermi's nose had succumbed to syphilis? What if Malcolm X had spent all his prison time getting jacked and inking tats? I guess now we’ll find out.

Cunt stubble stunt double

An ex-classmate of mine pointed out this morning via facebook status that every time you come up with a pun and google it, you discover that it's already been done. I found out after I started using it that "Flowbear" was the alias of a guy on a porn forum. And honestly, who in their right mind came up with "L. Ron Maiden" before I came up with L. Ron Maiden? What were the circumstances there? "Eddie Puss" isn't even funny, not even amusing and it's taken. These are not puns on the level of The John Cougar Concentration Camp, or even R.E.O. SpeedDealer.

Well, some time in my sophomore year of college the phrase "cunt stubble stunt double" occurred to me, and it makes me giggle sophomorically every time I think about it. Furthermore, it elicits 0 hits on google. So I'm just putting it here, hard copy, in the hopes that in the distant future, it ruins somebody's day. I saw her first!

Dr Tye was a peevish and humoursome man

I have a theory, untested genealogically but ironclad in my gut, that I'm related to an English composer named Christopher Tye. This hunch is based on certain facts, like: we have the same last name, and; this guy is fucking awesome.

It only makes sense. I mean, I'm a jerk, and Andrew Wood said, "Dr Tye was a peevish and humoursome man, especially in his latter dayes, and sometimes playing on ye Organ in ye chap. of qu. Elizab. wh. contained much musick, but little of delight to the ear, she would send ye verger to tell him yt he play'd out of Tune: whereupon he sent word yt her ears were out of Tune." That's right, he totally bitchslapped Queen Elizabeth. That sounds like something somebody I'm related to would do.

And if that's not enough, Henry VIII said, "England hath one God, one truth, one doctor hath for music's art, and that is Doctor Tye, admired for skill in music's harmony." Yep, I'm probably related to him, since I kind of like doo-wop and girl groups.


Blake v. Cock, Starburst

I know, I know, I'm four years old. But here's an unedited sentence from William Blake's biographical note in the Norton Anthology of Literature.

"Blake was acquitted; nevertheless, Schofield, his fellow soldier Cock, and other participants in the trial haunted Blake's imagination and were enlarged to the demonic characters who play a sinister role in Jurusalem."

Please note that "his fellow soldier Cock" is not mentioned anywhere else in the introduction. "Cock" is only mentioned, in other words, when he is "enlarged" to a "demonic character" who plays a "sinister role." In Jurusalem. Lending a new spin to "slouching towards Bethlehem.


Nobody finds these funny, apparently. I think they're hilarious. Total commitment.


If people think I'm arrogant, and I don't think I'm arrogant, that probably means I'm arrogant, right?

Tender wolves

"Star Witness" by Neko Case is by far and away my favorite song in recent memory, and I have a pretty good memory. (You can, and should if you ain't knowing, download it from Anti- Records website. It's about halfway down the "related downloads" on the left hand column).

It is, in purely visceral terms, an emotional body-blow of a song. Neko's voice is gigantic, monolithic, stratospheric, and her band has this completely unique sonic palette, all reverb-drenched country songs for a Cold War spy noir. The end of the arms race in front of a Nashville woodstove. It's claustrophobic but expansive, sort of sounding like floating in an oil drum in the middle of the ocean might feel. I know, that's two hammy, over-the-top metaphors in two sentences. This song inspires hyperbole.

Here's a stripped-down live version that bleeds mercury guitar all over. It's kind of bad quality Minicam-mic'ed, and it doesn't do justice to the studio version, but it highlights her voice and her harmonies with Kelly Hogan, who's plugging her ear like a pro, and it's pretty much gorgeous in spite of itself.

I saw her live once, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone so obviously drunk sing better than she did and seems to do all the time. Since I heard this song, it's been on the shortlist of songs that give me chills nearly every time I hear them. (Most of the other ones are by the Mountain Goats or Husker Du.) So I really didn't think it could hit me any harder. But a few weeks ago, I was reading up on it a little bit, and I came across some interviews she did. Holy cow.


From Fox Confessor, on a song like "Star Witness", I'm guessing there's a car accident involved but the details are sketchy.

Case: I spent a while on that song. It's about an actual event that occurred in front of me. It wasn't actually a car accident but someone being shot to death. That was a real event that happened in Chicago.

Pitchfork: What happened?

Case: It was one of those things where there's gang violence and somebody gets shot right in front of you, and you live it and it's horrible. And, of course, it doesn't make the news because the kid is black. Nobody gives a shit except for his family, and you see how much nobody gives a shit and it's fucking heartbreaking. He wasn't even the kid they were looking to shoot. He was just some kid who they mistook for somebody else and they shot him. I saw it happen. I didn't make the song about me either. The song is pieces of different people but the event is in there.

: Your Chicago neighborhood, Humboldt Park, is notorious for crime, but not that kind of crime.

Case: Yeah, it's a different kind of thing. I've lived around crime my whole life. I don't really feel threatened by it; it makes me intensely sad. I can feel it all the time. People have been shot to death right out in front of my house. You can hear their sister in the street screaming for two hours, and the ambulance never leaves, and they die right there. You hear every word. These houses are old—you can hear everything that happens in the street.

AVC: Is that the inspiration for "Star Witness"?

Case: Yeah, that song's about Humboldt Park.


Yoga hustler

A while ago, I voiced a vague interest in yoga. So, in a last-gasp effort to make a real family connection before I move away, my mom bought me two DVDs – Yoga for Dummies and Yoga for Inflexible People (yow!) – and a yoga mat. She asks me sometimes if I want to do yoga with her, but I always say no. She thinks this means I’m not doing yoga. But I am. I’m doing yoga. I'm a yoga hustler.

All the beginner’s poses that are supposed to be difficult are, thanks to my preternaturally spider-like balance, quite easy. I can stand on my tongue and juggle beanbags whilst bike-pedaling, no problem. But all the poses that are supposed to make geriatrics triumphally yell “bingo” are hard for me, since my hamstrings are like a pair of composite bowstrings. Seriously, if I jumped off a chair, I’d bounce into the unknown and burn up on reentry. It’s not that I can’t touch my toes. It’s that I HATE to touch my toes. Every now and then there’s an on-screen reminder that, if I can’t do the pose the way the instructor does it, I can do a watered-down Old Person version of it. But fuck that. I’m young, and I’m an unrecognized world-class natural athlete in the Jim Thorpe tradition.

So I sit there, yanking at my toes until my legs start belly dancing with amber waves of pain. Sure, I could do the “for dummies” version, but I’m trying to impress the instructor. I have a big crush on the lady who does the routine. Her name is Sara Ivanhoe, and she’s a Yoga Professional who’s been “Practicing Yoga for more than 10 Years” [sic], according to the box. She’s got that yoga-lady poptimism, full of cant and great job!isms. “This is what I like to call the dessert pose, because it feels so good,” she says, reading off a cue-card, her eyebrows cocked into a come-hither-but-don't-really scimitar. Due to my fondness for dumb girls with great schticks, this kind of stuff totally works for me.

She’s also really good looking, which helps.

It might be violating one of the unspoken rules of yoga to point out via sight-gag that the cat pose totally gives you that prison shower feeling. I’m not sure. All I know is that it feels voyeuristic to watch, because this thing is basically shot like soft-core POV porn, complete with sultry fourth wall-razing eye contact and light petting-style heavy breathing. Plus, it’s fully imbued with the classic Elaine Bennis “I look AMAZING in this leotard” flavor. But she’s talking directly to you, and she thinks that you’re a 65 year old woman, so you start feeling a bit like Mrs. Doubtfire. She’s always telling me, for example, that if I need to balance on a chair, it's perfectly fine. No one is going to laugh at me, and don't get frustrated if I can only swivel my spine three degrees to the left. The important thing, she says, is that yoga is not a competition. It's not me, the post-menopausal purple haired pear-shaped prune juice drinker, against the twenty-something yoga goddess. That's the important thing. It's not a femininity contest.

Sure, it’s creepy, but it's creepy in the great tradition of fucking creepy home fitness tapes – 8 MINUTE ABS, 36 INCH BUSTS, AERIAL PELVIC THRUSTS. Ultimately I think it will be a good thing for me. It’s like how those prematurely pervy kids get started in ballet in 3rd grade because only gaunt girls with money get balletic, only to be mocked by their peers and dance partners alike for a decade. That is, until they go pro as dancers, realize they don’t have the chops to hack it, move off Broadway, start shoplifting, get into corkless wine, and eventually die with newspaper stuffed down their pants to keep out the cold. This small step has actually laid out my whole life plan. When they realize I’m a fraud and kick me out of grad school, I’ll become a traveling yoga grifter, teaching elderly women techniques that actually exacerbate osteoporosis. And I'll do it all from the flatbed of a pickup truck. I'll take their money and speed away, unitard-clad legs pushing the gas to the max. I’m going to be a post-modern snake oil salesman. The world’s first yoga hustler.

Thanks, mom.

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather

Am I crazy, or does the "I am tired, I am weary" part of "Venus in Furs" sound a lot like the music from the Princess Bride? Mark fucking Knopfler.

Here comes the girl with the ice cream cone

While I've still got Moz and sloganeering on the mind, I might mention that Pretty Girls Make Graves's "If You Hate Your Friends, You're Not Alone" is the wisest of all song titles.


Voltaire's parrot.

Y'know, you can pay the WB to show footage of a woman masturbating with a bath tub faucet, so long as you cover her privates with a tiny rotating star. In terms of the pro/contra debate over capitalism, I could go either way on this one. After all, censorship is dangerous! It's like Voltaire said: "I do not agree with your decision to get wasted, sign a waiver, and masturbate with a bath tub faucet in front of a cameraman, but I will defend with my life your right to do it, not to mention the right of a corporation to pay to have it broadcast on national television if there's a tiny rotating star blocking your privates, and it's gotta be a marketing tool to help sell a much longer commercial DVD version of you masturbating with a bath tub faucet." It sort of makes me want to start a business, just so I can advertise overnight on the WB and demand equal rights. God bless America.


Fighting words

I'm not sure which are more unfortunate: mean vegans, or condescending marxists.

The Omniviewer's Dilemna

Until earlier this week, I hadn’t sent back my Netflix dvds since January. Since January, I’d had Wild Style,

Krush Groove,

and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

I fell prey to the elemental snare of Netflix, the one that insures their profit margin and allays investor terror – the mailbox is fucking far away. I had three of the most unwatchable movies in history for five months, and it only cost like 90 dollars. Netflix’s ploy is this: when you think about it in terms of a queue, it seems perfectly reasonable to line up every Godard movie ever made in chronological order, and then to follow that up with every Truffaut movie. Or, that there’s no reason you wouldn’t want to watch 3 discs of classic *M*A*S*H*, all in a row. It’s basic psychology – you’re struck dumb by the locusts looming on the horizon, but when they’re eating your crops you can’t stand them. Watching half a French new-wave movie is enough to crack my spirit like a fresh glow stick. I’ve never actually seen an episode of *M*A*S*H*. But I feel like I should watch them; indeed, I feel like I’m supposed to have seen them already, being a burgeoning hateable intellectual and inveterate consumer of culture or whatever.

And this doesn’t just apply to people like me who want to bone up on shitty arthouse pretense-o-ramas, either. It applies to buyers and users across the spectrum. There’s those fine people who feel like they really should see all the movies on the AFI’s top 100 list, maybe even in order. But when those first three come… oh man.

• Citizen Kane (1941)
• Casablanca (1942)
• The Godfather (1972)

Well, honey, shall we go for a walk? Or, let’s say Norma-Jean and Claude-Henry Smoott, a nice couple from Bethesda, they do watch those three, over a long weekend. Wasn't that edifying, dear? They wrap them up in a handy pre-paid envelope, stick that satisfying adhesive, and they send them back. Then, a few days later, like magic, the mailman delivers. What’s in store for Mr. and Mrs. Smoott?

• Gone with the Wind (1939)
• Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
• The Wizard of Oz (1939)


• The Graduate (1967)
• On the Waterfront (1954)
• Schindler's List (1993)

Hmmmmmmmmm… sounds brutal.

Or what about Oscar nominees? One day, Joe and Jane Schmoe are waylaid to discover that The Queen, Babel, and Letters from Iwo Jima have been slipped soundlessly through their mailslot. Oh god, they think, what have we got ourselves into?

The great and terrible thing about video stores is that you invariably end up with what your id demands. Every time you walk into Blockbuster, you pick up some well-reviewed racial allegory, or a hard-hitting biopic about a notorious museum curator. You examine it warily. You put it back. You walk out with Mean Girls 4: Still Meanin’, or some movie called Cage Fighting Cannibal Sluts, and the female lead is a softcore porn maven from long-remembered Cinemax classics. And you have but one response to these movies, without fail: “meh.”

So the genius of Netflix is that they no longer even need the “meh.” In fact, the worse your response to the movies, the better off they are, because you'll be less motivated to get more. Especially when you compound this with the fact that the queue system is invites - nay, compels people to get movies they should watch, instead of movies they wouldn't mind seeing. It’s not like you can simply change up your strategy and get the kinds of movies you would get at a video store, because it wouldn’t work. You can’t impulse-buy several days in advance. When it comes to crap movies, you never know which, or even what kind you’re going to want to watch until moments before you watch it. Slasher? Stoner comedy? Chuck Norris? The kind of romance you’d never have if you lived to be 100 and were still fucking hot?

BUT PEOPLE JUST DON'T WANT TO WATCH GOOD MOVIES. It's not in our genetic makeup. Sure, some people lie and say, "oh, I loved that silent sepia-toned Japanese movie - excuse me, film - that came out last year that was shot entirely from the point of view of a duck and it was about relationships and how they go bad, and it conveyed so much meaning with lusty glances and subtle gestures, I just adored it." Some people somehow trick themselves into thinking they do, in fact, like this kind of movie. But they don't. It's like circuit training. There are assholes who say they couldn't live another day if they didn't get to blast their quads, gluts, biceps, triceps, calves, and lats in under three minutes at 5:30 every morning. But believe you me: these people are liars, and liars lie. To themselves. To their friends. And especially, to their Netflix queues.

You can try to be middle-brow, but there are too many middle-brow movies. There are way, way, way too many adequate movies in the world for “good enough” to be a coherent organizing principle in the face of a selection of millions. When you go down that road, your queue balloons to 300, then 400, then 500, 1,000, and before you know it, YOUR QUEUE HAS BECOME A CHORE. You’re like, “Oh, man, I’m never going to get through all these movies, how am I ever going to get through all these movies?”

So you just stop caring. Or you actively start resenting the freedom that Netflix provides, because it’s not freedom. It’s constraint. It’s a baffling new kind of constraint that, historically, only the very richest people in all the world have had to deal with. Look. You can do whatever you want. Whenever you want. But you can only do so much. And you only have so much time to do it. And everything's pretty much the same. So you might as well just not do anything. It’s getting to the point where even somebody living below the poverty line can feel the sting of opulent depression. Which in no way soothes the anxiety that comes with living below the poverty line. Our entire society has become a bunch of lonely kings wandering around without so much as a vestige of regality. Millions of men and women wander the streets waving three red and white envelopes like dessicated skulls, in crazed bouts of passive violence, howling out for guidance from the living and the dead.

At least now I know what the next movies I should queue are.

• Hamlet (1948 film) directed by and starring Laurence Olivier
• Hamlet (1964 film) directed by Grigori Kozintsev and starring Innokenty Smoktunovsky
• Hamlet (1969 film) directed by Tony Richardson and starring Nicol Williamson
• Hamlet (1990 film) directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Mel Gibson
• Hamlet (1996 film) directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh
• Hamlet (2000 film) directed by Michael Almereyda and starring Ethan Hawke


Blackdraft Smith

Instead, read this Believer article about Morrissey. It's gooder.

I Hate the Smiths

‘Morrissey never reinvents himself… because "Morrissey" is eternal.’

‘I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.’
~Moz, “How Soon is Now”

1986 was a strange year for music. It gave us Paul Simon’s Graceland, a great album, which in turn gave every high school marching band “My Name is Al.” It gave us Peter Gabriel’s So, a good album, which in turn gave John Cusack’s boombox “In Your Eyes” for the climax of “Say Anything.” They’re both pretty hard to take seriously at this remove.

Sure, in 1986 XTC’s Skylarking came out. I personally think it’s the best album of the 80s. But nobody really agrees with me. Not to mention, the Chameleons UK’s Strange Times, in my opinion the most under-regarded album of the 80s. Again, nobody really agrees with me.

It was a banner year for hip hop that hasn’t aged well. The Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill. Run DMC, Raising Hell. Then there were Slayer’s Reign in Blood and Metallica’s Master of Puppets, two of the best metal albums ever, both of which have aged surprisingly well, both of which still fucking rule.

A slew of bands made good-to-stellar albums that don’t contend with their best work, among them Prince (Parade), Sonic Youth (EVOL), Big Black (Atomizer), Elvis Costello (Blood and Chocolate, King of America), R.E.M. (Life’s Rich Pageant), and Husker Du (Candy Apple Gray). Not to mention Rembrandt Pussyhorse by the Butthole Surfers, and some Talk Talk album, I dunno, I don’t listen to Talk Talk.

So, what’s the point? “Album of the year” is just as arbitrary a demarcation as “album of the month,” but people take it way, way, way more seriously. Let’s bear in mind that I was three years old during the year in question. But, the point is, the de facto best album of 1986 - the most acclaimed album of that year, and the 28th most acclaimed of all time - is The Queen is Dead by the Smiths. And I fucking hate the Smiths.

Actually, that’s overstating the case, something I am wont to do, because I was raised to fucking hate The Smiths.

In high school, my mentor-figure was a hip young English teacher who hated the Smiths. He told me I should hate the Smiths, and love Motorhead, and the Ramones, and Ministry. So I did. I loved Motorhead, and I hated the Smiths, sight-unseen.

Then, in college, I started listening to the Smiths, and I thought they were pretty ok. Nothing earth-shattering. Definitely some lovely little pop songs, some really truly great songs, truth be told, like “This Charming Man,” that kind of pogo-rific motorized power pop that’s great to tap your foot to – that is, in a way, transcendentally great to tap your foot to.

They even have one song, “The Queen is Dead,” that fits into that silly, obtuse personal category: Best Song Ever. When I hear “The Queen is Dead,” I am apt to say, “This Is The Best Song Ever.” It’s a really fucking awesome song.

And, on top of the tunes, Morrissey writes some excellent slogans. In fact, they might be the best slogan-band of all time. Certainly, the best thing about the band is their slogans, which might be why some people say they write such great lyrics. There’s “Shoplifters of the world unite,” “hang the DJ,” “life is very long when you’re lonely, “there is a light that never goes out,” “girlfriend in a coma,” “hand in glove.” Great slogans. Good little band. And it’s pretty obvious that they’ve influenced the music that I listen to as much as anybody, what with their guitar pedals and their vocal trills and their motorik percussion and their angst. Sure, I’m not a big fan of Moz’s singing style. “Operatic” and “crooning” are, to me, two things that have no peanut-butter-and-chocolate business being stuck together in one package. But still, I kind of liked the Smiths.

There is nothing about the Smiths that makes me hate the Smiths, or want to hate the Smiths. Not even that song, “Meat is Murder,” about how meat is murder.

Heifer whines could be human cries
Closer comes the screaming knife
This beautiful creature must die
This beautiful creature must die
A death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder

I don’t even hate Morrissey for setting the template for the entire wave of aggressively sexually ambiguous, pampered, entitled, ultra-groomed reality TV stars (see above). There’s nothing about the Smiths that makes me want to call the Smiths the best band that’s ever been and ever will be, or even a top-shelf band like some of the ones that owe a huge debt to them. The Stone Roses or Radiohead or whatever.

This was, naturally, before I’d come into contact with Smiths fans. Because Smiths fans are out of their motherfucking minds. The only thing that makes me feel strongly about the Smiths is the way that people feel so strongly about the Smiths.

And it’s got very little to do with people just loving the Smiths. That would be fine. Love away. But to read up on the Smiths is to immediately give up trying to read up on the Smiths, because it’s impossible to penetrate through the jungle of fanboy adulation and rancor. They’re the pissiest bunch in the world. You get your hyperbolic superlatives like, “The Smiths were the greatest British band of the '80's, maybe of all-time. Their singer Morrissey combined the wit and style of Oscar Wilde with the good looks and poise of James Dean to become the landmark artist of his era.”

You get Noel Gallagher from Oasis calling Morrissey “without a doubt the most literate man to write music.” And I’m not deriding Moz’s literary bent. I’m just saying, there’s at least a little bit of doubt. Especially from a guy who goes on to say, “they made the most unique music of their generation, probably any generation.” It’s a fucking amazing interview, though: Noel Gallagher on the Smiths.

Hyperbole like that makes me kind of angry, not in and of itself, but because the people who use that kind of hyperbole are the kind of people who call you stupid for disagreeing with them. Smiths fans, more than any other educated segment of the population I have yet encountered, are apt to call you stupid for not liking the Smiths. They do this because they’re tired of being ragged on for being Smiths fans. So they lash out. Which naturally lends to the predilection towards hating the Smiths even more, just to piss them off. It’s a vicious high school caste system cycle.

“This Charming Man” has been covered by Death Cab for Cutie, Stars, and Braid, three of my all-time favorite “I’m feelin’ down” bands. Death Cab changed a few of the words around in their version, and the people on songmeaning.com took umbrage. “Jesus Christ, what those punks did to Mozza's lyrics here is the songwriting equivalent of rape.” OK, look: there is no songwriting equivalent of rape. Rape is the only equivalent of rape. But this is what happens when you get a bunch of people to worship a man who won’t let people look him in the eye.

But the professional Smiths haters, they’re just as bad. The best example of undistilled Smiths-bashing is by the band Pine Sheep – one of the guys from Ween, before he formed Ween – called “I Hate the Smiths.”

All you do is hate life and tell me about it
You're a homosexual, just keep me out of it
All your music sounds the same
I don't even like your art fag name

Cause I hate The Smiths and Steven Morrissey
I hate The Smiths and Steven Morrissey

You're always depressed and you're never glad
Maybe it's something to do with your dad
I like to be happy, I think that it's good
Hey, you're no bud, you're no dude

Cause I hate The Smiths and Steven Morrissey
I hate The Smiths and Steven Morrissey

It’s your typically reactionary-conservative response. It’s easy to rag on the Smiths. All you have to do is play the sex card and claim to be normal. Which is totally bullshit. It’s pretty much what Rush Limbaugh would say about Morrissey on his radio show, if he was on the fat man’s radar. It's also, ahem, sort of hilarious (“Maybe it's something to do with your dad!”). But that's just me talking.

One time, a Writers Workshop poet-dude asked how I could have anything but love for the Smiths, being as I am a “hyperverbal pussy” and “a diva.” It’s an interesting question. How could someone whose life is so fundamentally predicated on failed romance, drama-queenery, depression, repression, misery, hatred of women, hatred of men, anger at men and women who are happy together, fear of failure, fear of success, and pop songs about all these things not care for the Smiths? It doesn’t make sense.

One of the answers is, I think Morrissey is vastly overrated as a poet. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is sort of the Smiths’ calling card.

It’s widely regarded as their best song, and even as one of the best songs ever written. And I get the sentiment, I’ve felt the way the song’s protagonist feels. Oh my god, I’m so happy, and I’m going to fuck it up, so we might as well die right now. It’s as close as any song could be to one of my favorite songs, but it’s not. For one thing, like many a Smiths song, it sounds a little musically anonymous to me. For another, that chorus, lovely and flighty as it is, it just bothers the hell out of me.

If a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die.

It just seems a little… well… I don’t want to say obvious, because that’s not the problem, and I don’t want to say heavy-handed, because that’s the point. So I’ll invent a new word. It’s just a little obvianded.

Robert Christgau has Moz as right as anybody: “it's the James Taylor effect all over again--hypersensitivity seen as a spiritual achievement rather than an affliction by young would-be idealists who have had it to here with the cold cruel world.”

The other answer is, I think everything the Smiths did, got done better over the next decade by the bands that held the torch for them, basically rendering them irrelevant, sort of like what happened to Carl Perkins after Elvis basically torched him.

But still, I’ve been working on it. I’ve been listening to The Queen is Dead, because it’s supposed to be great, and who am I to say it’s not? Number 216 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, over 100 spots better than the Cure’s Disintegration. Number 6 on Pitchfork’s best albums of the 80s. Number 2 on NME’s list of greatest British albums. Of course, that’s NME, so it doesn’t mean anything to anyone without the capricious mod-microchips they implant in the cortexes of all British babies. It has an average rating of 5 stars, based on 180 reviews, on Amazon.com. Not one person gave it a four. It’s on pretty much every best-of list in existence. And I think it’s a good album. A fine album. But mehhhhhhhhhh. It’s filler for a few great tracks.

Nearly every time I hate an album that everybody else loves, I think about it so much that I end up liking it. So far this has not been the case. “I Know it’s Over” is great, and, as a bonus, for once Moz’s voice doesn’t remind me of a stick of roll-on deodorant or a Fruit Rollup left in the sun for an afternoon. “Cemetery Gates” might be the second best song called “Cemetery Gates,” which would be a fine accomplishment if the better “Cemetery Gates” wasn’t by Pantera. Just kidding. I fucking love Pantera.

Which might explain why I don’t dig the Smiths. (Phil Anselmo both air-guitars and air-punches during the guitar solo in this video. Awesome.)

But come on. “Frankly Mr. Shankly” is “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” as rewritten by a total fucking asshole, and really – did we need “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to be rewritten by a total fucking asshole? I mean, yes, it’s one of Johnny Marr’s catchiest bits. But has ever a song had its foot so badly stomped on by a lyric? I thought Morrissey was supposed to be like some kind of pop poet god. “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you asked, you are a flatulent pain in the arse.” I know it’s supposed to be stupid. I know that’s the point. But what a shitty point. Like having a song called “Vicar in a Tutu” about a vicar in a tutu. How gender-bending. Or “Some Girls Are Bigger than Others,” which goes “some girls are bigger than others, some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.” And it goes like that for like three interminable minutes. I’m not one to decry “formalism” in pop music, and I am no great hater of cleverisms, but what exactly the fuck am I supposed to be getting out of this?

I guess nothing. Maybe the lesson to be learned here is moderation. I don’t have to hate the Smiths. I don’t have to love the Smiths. I can just let the Smiths be.

But, just for the sake of argumet... if I had to choose a side... I fucking hate the fucking Smiths.


I went to Ocean’s 13 the other night. In no particular order, the most enjoyable parts of the movie were:

-Casey Affleck’s fake mustache
-George Clooney’s fake mustache
-Brad Pitt’s fake mustache
-Matt Damon’s fake nose

Talk about swinging for the fences. Not worth seeing, but I’m glad I saw it.

I've felt incredibly boring for the last several days. This may have something to do with The Smiths.

Who, me?

I hate The fucking Smiths. More on that later.


He's in love with-a rock'n'roll woaahh

“And that's a lot to reject, if that's the best you can do. And that's a lot to accept, if that's the best you can do. You’ve got a great collection of things cuz that’s the best you can do.”
~Eric Bachmann

Last year, my external hard drive crashed and I lost 100-odd gigabytes of music. I lost the Die Kreuzen discography. A sizeable percentage of the output of Canadian hip hop label Peanuts and Corn. More Scandinavian orchestral black metal than anybody who doesn’t particularly like orchestral black metal has any business having. I lost a megaton of bullshit that I had probably never listened to all the way through, but was packratting for a rainy day when I would finally make myself the Universal Soldier of indie snobs. The be-all-end-all of critical darling scholars. I was kind of a dumb kid.

It was a tough blow to take, the first time I plugged that little firewire fucker in and it said “device not recognized.” Not so much because I have an emotional connection with this music. Most of it had its moment in my listening carousel and would have never made its way back – and the stuff that I miss having instant access to, like the Clash’s first album, I’ve got somewhere stashed on a burned CD, in case of emergency. And I should probably buy it anyway.

Still, it was hard. It was hard because I’d spent countless hours – hundreds and hundreds of hours since Napster first broke when I was a high school frosh – compiling and curating and heavy-petting this stuff. The amount of time I must have spent just tagging mp3 files when I first downloaded iTunes probably would have killed a lesser man. I spent all this time on pop that I could have spent volunteering at an animal shelter, or reading Greek tragedies in Canadian translations ("Bacchus is a hoser, eh!"), or talking to people about things that sorta kinda matter. And the proof was already tenuously connected to reality. Billions of 1s and 0s carved into high-density magnets. It would have taken literally years to listen to all the music on that hard drive. It might have been the most impressive single act of my life, stretched out over time. The closest contender (probably "felt boobs") is a ways down the list. But now, there's no proof at all that it even happened.

I’ve been getting by with the 80 gigs on my computer ok, but the other day, I got a 250 gigabyte USB drive so small that Jennifer Garner could smuggle it in her leatherette Alias skivvies, and it wouldn’t even distract her while she was speaking Russian as badly as a Hollywood ingénue can.

And I can feel it beginning – the first scotch off the wagon. I can feel the urge to queue up every album released between 1981-1994 by an American independent label. Or all Britpop, ever. Or every 80 minute mixtape by every rapper who ever met a member of the Wu Tang Clan and knows a guy who got shot. And I’m not sure if it saddens me, or if it raises my spirits a bit, that I’m just too tired to go for it. Given the state of Bittorrent these days, I could be like a nympho in a sybian factory.

But I’m too old. Music is still my favorite thing in the world. It’s just, I can no longer muster so much as a fuck about being the lord and master of all the music in the world. And I used to be that guy. I know nobody likes that guy, but it’s a niche that needs to be filled. I’m sure a few dozen little dormrat fuckers are stepping up to bat right now to snatch my spot in the order, and it’s not that I won’t miss it, don’t miss it, because I feel like I’m betraying the 17 year old me. The one who said, “Man, I’ll never turn square. You’ll never get me, intellectual complacency. I'll be 23, still spending every dollar I have at the end of the week on vinyl. I’m going to learn everything I can about every obscure bullshit metalcore band ever to puke onstage in Massachusetts. I’m going to buy every undie-rap 12” single I can afford, so I can mix the a capella from one track with the instrumental from another. I’m going to buy one iPod just for jazz. I’ll rest when I’m dead.” I feel like I’m betraying him, the kid who was lent his unique identity by maximalness, who felt uncomfortable in his own skin, felt average, just doing the normal amount, like there wasn't enough left over to differentiate him. But man, I hate that fucking kid. Who wouldn’t?

Shut up already. I'm going to go find that Clash CD.

"Clearly, this is your loss. Clearly, it's not my loss. Clearly, it's just bad luck. Clearly, it doesn't mean a thing."
~Eric Bachmann.


Outlandishly Hot Men, Will Dance For Stardom

So You Think You Can Dance just murders American Idol. For one thing, it's got more great legs than a volleyball tournament. More importantly, though, you never have to hear a judge talk shit about a contestant's "song choice" one minute, then turn around say a Celine Dion ballad is a "great great song" the next. If a song is treacle on American Idol - and around half are - it sinks the performance, barring a spectacular vocal turn. But on So You Think You Can Dance, half the charm is in the potential trainwreck inherent in watching an Asian breakdancer attempting a smooth-waltz with a contemporary-lyrical 6' cornfed whitegirl to an Avril Lavigne song.

That's not quite true. Half the charm is in the fact that these people who have nothing in common almost always pull it out, and in spectacular fashion.

It's certainly more exciting is that than watching "the rocker" try to sing Sinatra. Sure, it doesn't have the pins-and-needles peaks of AI when a gospel goddess is firing on all cylinders. But it has none of the lows, and AI barely sticks its head outta the valley these days.

The storylines are better, too. Partly because these people don't seem as asinine as the Idols - one-to-one, they've got a fuckton more character and charm and, especially, warmth, with none of the aseptic Idol stage banter that usually sounds like conversations I have with my doctor when he's trying to figure out whether or not I'm dying. But also because you can try to speculate about which partners are dating each other. Last year the money was on the kittenishly chubby Donyelle, a black modern dancer with a lip ring, and Benji, a stick-thin pasty national swing dance champion who had done Christian missionary work. Benji ended up winning the whole competition- shortly after eliminating Donyelle. I mean, come on.

That's entertainment.

Still don't believe me?

Booty clap, bitch.

It's also better than Dancing With The Stars, where you have to watch a bunch of mawkish and uncomfortable people be celebrities first and dancers second and slowly come into their own. Sure, that's part of the charm, but the level they reach at the end of the competition isn't even close to the in-built expertise of these superfit 20-somethings and late teens on the first episode of SYTYCD. And if they do a Shane Sparks hip hop routine, woooooo-boy, lookout, because that man might set your TV on fire.

But I won't lie to you. One of the most strangely appealing things about this show is the way it's jam-packed with outlandishly hot men, from all walks of life. I'm not saying the women aren't hot, because they are - in fact, this year, for the first time ever, the women, on the whole, are probably hotter than the dudes. But that doesn't change the fact that the ratio of men::doability has been as high on this show as is probably possible.

There was Blake

and there was Jamille

and there was Ryan (my favorite)

and there was Travis (whose myspace "who i'd like to meet" section includes, "i still havent met justin....and like what im trying to do with dance, i think he started a new art of music. along with timberland [sic]."

God, this is a good show. Can I get an amen? Actually, to hell with that. Lemme get a Ryan Conferido breakdancing routine. This man is a god.



Who is set to play Fletch in Fletch Won, you ask? Don't tell me it's... oh no... please god... not

Joshua Fucking Jackson. Yeah, that'll probably be pretty good. Everybody knows, there's only one man who is neither Chevy nor Chase that can play this role. You know who I mean.

Ryan "shirt allergy" Reynolds. Why isn't this man the biggest star in the world, again? Oh, that's right... Smokin' Aces. Plus, he's allergic to shirts, which is wreaking havoc on his ability to do things that require them, such as receive service from 7/11... or play Fletch... wait a second...

A woman named Butts could face 3 years in prison for stealing 3 rolls of toilet paper from a Marshalltown courthouse. "See, I can't say it with a straight face," said Chief Lon Walker. God bless America.

Horry aka Big_Shot_Rob copy

Why won't you let me help you?!

So I’ve got this ex-girlfriend, and she likes to call me when she’s wasted and guilt me into driving to Cedar Rapids to drink with her until late into the morning. This time, I ended up in a neighborhood that's both semi-suburban sprawl and industrial wasteland all at once. At some point in the evening – and this happens without fail – she'll cut me off in the middle of a sentence and say something like, "this is why I hate hanging out with him." Then she offers a lengthy indictment of me in general, and specifically of how I permanently scarred her psyche during our relationship. It is at this point that I realize that although there is nothing I want more than to go home and be alone, I am too drunk to drive.

She's a great girl, and I was pretty bad to her when we were together, so the fact that she has it in for me makes sense. But she's too goddamn smart for her own good, and weird shit just kind of follows her around. So it's always around when I'm there.

One day late last summer, I met this same ex-girlfriend at a sports bar in CR. It was like Iowa City sports bar if everybody was fifteen pounds fatter, in cologne and perfume that was fifteen bucks cheaper. We had a very pedestrian drinking session that just loosened me up enough to say "yes" when I was asked if I wanted to go drink with a group of people I’d never met before. This is an insane thing to do, sight-unseen, in Cedar Rapids. So we took to the streets, and wended our way through blacktops that gave way to access gravels that gave way to a thin dirt strip overgrown on both sides. I clutched a $9 bottle of rum in the passenger seat, being reassured by the slurring driver that she did not want her second OWI, and would therefore not do anything dangerous or foolish. We ended up somewhere between Cedar Rapids and Marion, in half of a ranch-house duplex on a farm. There were chickens running around, scratching at things. There were ATVs and rusted out cars in the yard. Inside, on the counter, there was a half-eaten cheeseburger that was starting to mold over next to the sink, which was overflowing with a week’s worth of dishes covered in scum. Everything in complete disarray, abject squalor, except for the 50-odd inch plasma TV on the fake-wood paneled living room wall that hung straight as a Louvre Cézanne.

After a rousing round of Fuck You, a drinking game that I didn’t understand and didn’t win, unless winning means getting superfucked up on tummyache rum, people started to drift off to bed. The marine body-builder, the bulge-eyed twins, a few others. All that was left was me, my ex, and a skinny urban cowboy named Cody, sitting outside in a screened-in portico and lighting Marlboro Menthol Lights with citronella candles.

I’m useless in a situation like this. Cedar Rapidians and Marionites share this strange way of talking about things– it’s not exactly a dialect or a slang-set, it’s more of a spiritual affinity. They rattle off sentences that, on the surface, seem simple enough, but are absolutely impenetrable to an outsider. Their conversations are loaded with ultra-specific references to geographical landmarks and names of people who seem to exist in the same way that Cuchulain exists in Irish folklore. Example: “Have you ever been to Stan’s? It’s between Sixteenth Street and Green Square Park, right to the left of what’s left of the Tan World where Ricky used to steal tan lotion until he got caught, the one who had an AK-47 hanging from his wall, he’s dead now. He’s been dead for a couple of years.” They just kind of power through this shit. It’s hard to tell if they’re listening to each other.

So I have no idea what led to the conversational set-piece that began with the Cody dude saying, “We don’t agree about everything. And that’s ok. It’s like, how I don’t like black people.” At which point she instantly became a great defender of social justice.

Now, she has a psychology degree that she wields like a flaming sword, and she wears beer like armor, so they only way to even tie her in a drunken war of words is to stay fast, agile, and out of the way. This ign’ant bastard didn’t know that, though. So he adumbrated the ways in which he took the “black race” to be irritating, including the gem of a sentence, “I’ve just always found them to be shiftless.”

Then, when nobody was looking, she threw a glass at the concrete porch steps, and it shattered. She said it was an accident, and cleaned the shards up with her hand – we couldn’t get her to use a broom.

It might have been some trick of free-association over the word “glass” that led the dude to start talking about his father, who’d been involved in a hunting accident a year before. His friend had shot at some birds, and peppered him in the eye with some runaway buckshot. So one of his eyes was glass. It was apparently a traumatic event in Cody’s life. He had taken it hard, and his dad hadn’t taken it well either. Which led Cody to say, “I would rather he was dead than he only had one eye.”

We were both sort of horrified by this. He explained, “My dad’s a welder, and if anything happened to his other eye, he’d never be able to do anything again! And that’s why I wish he was dead.”

They argued about this venomously for a while – whether or not he really wanted his father dead, she analyzing him knives-out, both getting angrier and angrier – and it literally ended with both of them crying, she clutching him around the shoulders and howling, “Why won’t you let me help you? Why won’t you let me help you?!”

A few minutes later, the sun up full-bore, he went out to one of the four-wheelers in the yard, leaned backwards against the seat, and threw up on his shoes. She and I went inside, and she called her then-boyfriend to come get her. She told me I should stay in the Marion farmhouse with these people I’d never met before. I finally begged into a spot in her boyfriend’s house’s spare bedroom. I woke up at 10 that morning, after about an hour of sleep. I was as quiet as possible, hiding in the spare bedroom, waiting for someone to come get me and drive me back to my car. She woke up at 4:30 that evening, and drove me back to my car.



Our fourteen year old dog, Copper the coon hound, ran away early last week. She remains missing. She is sick. The last anybody saw her, I was going for a walk - she always followed me when nobody else was home - and I yelled at her, "no" and "stay." When I came back, she was gone. Maybe she went away to die, but I'm not sure if dogs really do that, or if that's just something people say. I have a habit, where the last thing I ever say to a dog, or even to a person, is a mean thing. Our other dog is acting very sad. I'm sad, too.


Everybody knows, the heroes are the guys who don’t have a chance in hell.

It’s depressing. I put an incredible amount of emotional energy into rooting for people to beat the best, when they don’t have anything approaching the talent, skill, drive, or training required to beat the best. It would be like if, at the end of every Rocky movie, he took a monumental whupping, got humiliated for a few rounds by Apollo Creed or Ivan Drago or Mr. T or Mason Dixon or whatever, and was eventually knocked cold and toothless and had to be carried from the ring, with Adrian sobbing and choking over the gurney, screaming WAKE UP ROCKY! WAKE UP! It just wouldn’t be such a popular film series.

I was a huge Hartford Whalers fan growing up in Massachusetts.

You might be surprised to learn that I wasn’t always the nerdly pariah you read before you today. Indeed, I was once a comer, a staunch young Republican in starched shirts, a church-going lad living fifteen minutes from Yale University, full of piss and absolutely dismissive of everything, ever. You could blame the affection for losers on any number of things – the encroachment of self-awareness that came with age and pain… a decline in social fortune that makes Stephen Dedalus look like a Horatio Alger protagonist… suddenly moving to Ohio (shudder)…

Not me, though. I blame my rabid tendency to root for underdogs on my childhood allegiance to Hartford. The Whalers were terrible. Just terrible. But my dad would drive me across the state line every few weeks for a game, and we’d sit there behind the Plexiglas watching the Whalers get killed. Every time, they just got killed.

One weekend, we went to a Harlem Globetrotters game, and I was ashamed when I learned that I wasn’t supposed to be rooting for the Generals. It was infuriating. It wasn’t enough that the Globetrotters waxed them by fifty-odd points. They had to spray the Generals with Silly String, pour buckets of water on them, and take shots from a stepladder set up at half-court. It just wasn’t fair.

Some weekends, we’d drive to Boston and watch Roger Clemens pitch seven decent innings against the Yankees. It was always close until they called in a reliever, who invariably got burned for 76 homeruns in the last two innings, yielding soul-rending, pride-immolating losses. When it was anybody but the Rocket on the mound, it was over in four and we could get out of there before the traffic was a problem.

I’ve never understood how anybody could be a Yankees fan. I’ve never understood how a human being could so wholeheartedly embrace that kind of underhanded bastardery, smug superiority, unabashed fascism. Especially when the Mets are just down the street, and really, the Giants and the Dodgers haven’t been gone so long. The Yankees are like a cyst stuck to the side of New York’s neck, except New Yorkers go around in a jersey that says CYST on them. People from all walks of life wear caps that say CYST – subtext, We support and love this unnatural, freakish growth, no matter how bloated it gets.

In the last five years, my beloved New England Patriots have become what is, to me, the dirtiest word in the sporting lexicon – a dynasty.

Rooting for Kobe Bryant, before he became a hysterical basket case of neurotic fury, was akin to rooting for the jocks in Revenge of the Nerds. Who could possibly be such a heartless bastard? Who could be so duped? Everybody knows, the heroes are the guys who don’t have a chance in hell.

Even more than in real life, in fandom – incredible as it seems – I am a doormat; a loser. I jumped off the Red Sox bandwagon when Johnny Damon strolled into town with his feathered hair and his turgid batting average. I could smell it from day one – he was a Yankee in sheep’s clothing. He won “us” the pennant, he won “us” the series, he beat the Yankees, and then he became… a Yankee. Didn’t see that one coming. Motherfucker.

I jumped off the Steelers bandwagon as soon as Ben Roethlisberger stopped looking like a long shot. He won the Super Bowl shortly thereafter. You might have heard me, wherever you live, screaming in agony for every yard they gained against the Seahawks, who didn't have a chance in hell.

I watch as many March Madness 16 seeds as humanly possible get pummeled by NC or Kentucky.

This shit is exhausting, but I feel like it’s my job. I feel like I’m supposed to be there, any time there’s a televised athletic event, on the off chance that I might witness the miracle of a collapsing Goliath. It's happened, once or twice. It has failed to happen hundreds, maybe even thousands of times.

This year’s NBA finals might kill me.The San Antonio Spurs – my all-time least favorite sports franchise, beating out the Yankees, the Broncos, the Cardinals, EVEN THE WHITE SOX – are going to Brazilian wax the Cleveland Cavaliers – one of the most charming sports franchises in the world – in, I would guess, about five games. Maybe six. On national television.

Just imagine what it would feel like, watching somebody you love getting Brazilian waxed on national television. That’s how I feel.

And it’s getting more and more difficult to face the harsh reality, but more and more obvious that I must. For years, I didn’t understand why people would tether their sporting allegiances by geography. I didn’t see what living somewhere had to do with liking a team. But now, I’m starting to get it. Your fortunes rise and fall together. There are no mercenary leaps from sub-par club to sub-par club. You don’t have to disown a team when they get good – you actually get to be proud, and feel like that, in some way, reflects on you. Look at my cyst! It’s a glorious cyst!

It’s sort of like some people I know. They realized, “Hey, I could go from ugly chick to ugly chick, having one night stands, telling crazy stories to my friends, making fun of them behind their backs, having no respect to them, yet feeling some abstract allegiance to them that I can’t put my finger on. But this shit is exhausting. So, I could just marry Anygirl USA, and hope she turns princess for a season down the road and makes a run at the title, before she slides back under the morass forever. I’ll always have that banner, hanging from my ceiling.”

So there’s really only one thing I can take away from this whole situation, and that is this: I’m glad the Baltimore Ravens are good. At least for now.


I hate the Colonel with his wee, beady eyes and that smug look on his face. "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken, ohhhh!"

I just finished Fast Food Nation, and I felt one feeling while reading every chapter; every sub-chapter; even every couple of pages. It wasn’t what I was supposed to feel. It wasn't indignation. It wasn’t revulsion. It wasn’t outrage. It wasn’t even shame or despair or a call to activism. It was, god damn, I want some McDonalds.

It was the one incontrovertible personal truth I could discover throughout the course of the book: McDonalds is delicious. Everything else is in a tricky gray area, most of it quite dark, verging on black. But all I know for sure is that I would read something like, “levels of E. Coli in McDonalds ground beef are startlingly high because there’s shit in the meat” and I would say, “wow, that’s gross. Shit in the meat. In the McDonalds hamburger… no, cheeseburger… double quarter pounder… with fries… and some of that soft-serve ice cream… man, I want some McDonalds.” I would read, “illegal immigrant laborers lose limbs and receive virtually no workers’ compensation,” and I would think, “man, that must be terrible, ankle-deep in a standing pool of blood killing cows all day and cutting their stomachs out so they can be ground up into… ungodly delicious McDonalds hamburgers… man, I want some McDonalds.” It kept happening, over and over again, and it was completely out of my control. I don’t like food, and I don’t generally get food cravings. I resent the act of eating, and if I didn’t have to do it, I probably wouldn’t. But this, it was more pathological or sexual than it was a simple craving for, you know, potato chips or Mike ‘n’ Ikes. More akin to the response you would expect from reading a trashy romance novel. No matter how bad it gets, it’s still kind of hot.

And all this from a book that makes McDonalds look very close to evil, and makes their food sound very close to unacceptable. It’s really a tremendous book. It paints an unbelievably unflattering profile of fast food chains without resorting to any low-blow PETA hisses and hate-hoots. It's smart, and it's measured, and the message is, there's really no good reason to eat fast food. But that sidesteps the fact that there's one really good reason to eat fast food. It's delicious.

It's also cheap.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone to McDonalds-or-equivalent since I started reading the book. But I’ll be honest, when I got to the part that said, “Cattle that are not eaten by people, that are simply allowed to grow old and weak, still get eaten – by coyotes and turkey buzzards, and it’s not a pretty sight,” I went out the next day and ate two cheeseburgers. Neither from a fast food restaurant. But both courtesy of very dead cows, the selfsame creatures the consumption of whom I have been staving off for so long. And they were both incredible. And when the waitress asked me what I wanted on them, and I said everything, “everything” turned out to be, both times, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. How familiar.

Fucking fast food. You’ve got me. You’ve had me since I was born, and I hate you for it.

But I'm trying, Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.

-“I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes, and that smug look on his face, 'Oh, you're going to buy my chicken, oh oh!'”
-“Dad, how can you hate the Colonel?”
-“Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass!”
~So I Married An Axe Murderer



"After an Iowa teen hides her pregnancy and kills her newborn, we investigate how it's possible to hide a pregnancy, tonight on Fox News at 9."
~Linsey Grams.

Some sad things.

“I ain’t quite the beauty who holds up two guns and shoots at the pretty, pretty view.”
~Spencer Krug

An 18-year old girl from my town got pregnant. She didn’t tell anybody. Not even her boyfriend, the father, knew. She went to Florida with her family. She gave birth. She dropped the baby down a garbage chute. The baby died. She’s been charged with murder, which in Florida could mean the death penalty.

Just about every day, I walk from my house to the store with fifty cents in my pocket – there’s a pop machine that still costs fifty cents – and I think about the things I’m going to miss about Iowa. Like how some Iowans say, in a way that is both arch and innocent, “fifty cents” as a singular noun, so if you have a dollar, you have two fifty centses. And the way I pass the same old men every day, no matter the time, sitting on whitewashed benches and staring into the middle distance, and we’re both so self-conscious but so casual, and we can nod to each other or not but we both know we’re the only other person in sight. I love things like this. Maybe I don’t, I don’t know.

When I was 200 yards from the store, the reporter was already hoofing it towards me, tie blowing over his shoulder, clipboard clutched in both hands like a mendicant’s cap.

I hate local TV news. I think it’s irresponsible. I think it has very little to do with journalism, or being objective, or trying to tell the truth about things that matter from a perspective that’s as uncluttered as possible by ideology and venom. Since local newspeople have a responsibility to make stories compelling, and get them in on time and under budget, they have to parrot a pat emotion under a thin wax of fake objectivity.

A couple sentences into our chat he had already started to spin me. “We were just trying to get a perspective… from some people… about how such a… terrible… thing could happen in such a… small town.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, so he told me, in the barest outline, the story, and peppered it with pejoratives. Terrible. Horrible. Unthinkable. Tragedy. And over and over again, small town. Such a small, small town. How could such a horrible thing happen in such a tiny town? Well, it didn’t, but you know what I mean.

It started to piss me off. Not, of course, because it’s not all of those things. But because he didn’t say anything like, poor girl. What a poor, poor little girl. What a horrible, horrible thing to happen to a child of 18. No, that wasn’t it either. I was offended just because he asked me. Because what could I possibly have to say about it that could mean anything to anyone? What could I possibly have to say about it that would shed any light on the situation as a piece of news, not just table-scrap rabblerousing?

So I was like, “fuck that.” He asked me to talk and I said no. He pressed me and I told him, “There’s a lot of sex around here. There’s a lot of repression about sex. Something like this was bound to happen. It takes a lot to keep up the veneer of this town, like it was all farmers and pickup trucks and NASCAR hats. Sure, it’s a tragedy. But the fact that this girl felt like she had to hide a pregnancy from everybody in the world, that sounds pretty terrible to me.”

His eyes sort of lit up. I’m not sure if it was just because he had found a young person to talk to, or if it was because I was saying some shit that would sound awfully bad on television, playing the old “product of her environment” card. All I know is, while we were talking, a late-middle aged farmer-type came up to him and said, “so, is that gonna be on TV?” He walked away with a big smile on his face when he was told that yeah, his interview would be broadcast at 6 and 10.

I would later find out that he said, “You just can't figure out why someone would do a thing like that when there's so many people that want children.”

Then he said – this didn’t make the broadcast, but it’s in the print article – he said, "It's unacceptable in a town like this."

I’m being unfair. In context, the article goes like this.

“Now, people in Solon just wish someone would have noticed [the girl] was pregnant and reached out to help her. ‘It's unacceptable in a town like this,’ [the interviewee] said. A town where people say they would have helped [the girl] get through this difficult time in her life.”

He also writes, “Solon is the kind of place where neighbors greet each other by first name. That's one reason many don't understand why [the girl] never reached out for help.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe in, like, Geneseo, it’s weird to greet your neighbors without addressing them as “Professor” or something. Maybe I was totally off base. All I know is that the dude said, “It’s unacceptable in a town like this,” and that he got a quick shot of pride when he found out he was going to be on TV. These are the kind of people she’s supposed to be reaching out to… the same people who are vaguely damning (when he says “unacceptable,” I don't think he's referring to the town's sleuthing skills) her during what have to be the most horrible days of her entire life.

All this was before I learned the stuff that really hit home and make it real – most of which was in the report that came out that night. This is the stuff the reporter didn’t bother to tell me before he asked for my reaction. He wanted me to talk fast, because he was on a deadline. I was an expert by merit of being from Solon, and doubly an expert because, as he said, “we’re looking for reactions from some of the younger folks.” This is what I didn’t know before I was invited, pleaded with to comment: She delivered the baby in a hotel bathroom. She cut the umbilical cord with a knife, wrapped the baby in some towels and a plastic bag, and left the room. When her boyfriend asked where she was going, and noticed she was dripping blood on the floor, she told him she was having her period. Then she took the baby to the garbage chute in the hallway of the hotel, and dropped it. Then she dropped the knife. Not down the chute. Just on the floor. The hotel staff found the knife, covered in blood, and called the police. The police found the baby, and then followed a trail of blood back to her room. That’s when her family, and the father of her child, first found out she was pregnant.

That’s what the reporter failed to tell me before he asked for my reaction, which he wanted to air on television.

That’s why a man was willing to get on TV and say, “It’s unacceptable in a town like this,” after the reporter asked, “how do you feel about something so… so terrible happening in a small town like this?” He didn’t ask a question. He just asked for a repetition. And this is the end result.

The guy, he was probably just trying to be nice, whether or not it’s bullshit. It’s unacceptable because, in a town like this, we would have helped her get through it. All of us, the community, would have banded together as one. Nobody would have talked behind her back, or blamed her, or said the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way. Not if she had just come out earlier. But I doubt it. Did she have a responsibility that she absolutely failed to meet? Absolutely. And now the unconscionable machine of Southern justice is starting to spin its gears. I think she’s dealing with enough without being second-guessed, in a public forum, by people a thousand miles away, who are tied to her simply by the fact that they happen to live within five or ten miles of each other. That man never even met this girl. He had never even heard of her. And this is news.

Maybe what I’m going to miss is all right there. All that innocent, meek self-righteousness. Superiority dressed up in humility. Maybe living in a town like this makes you feel more important than you really are. Because that shit is in my blood. I’m doing it right now. I feel that, somehow, my indignation at local newsmen is somehow a more appropriate reaction, which is nothing if not self-righteous. I'm demanding exactly the kind of reverence that I am, apparently, unwilling to provide, enjoining people not to weigh in on things unless they've really got a stake in them, and doing it myself anyway.

When I told him I didn’t want to say anything on camera, he seemed disappointed. As he was walking away, as an afterthought, he said, “Nice to meet you,” without enthusiasm, and I imagined him being trained by a producer. “When you talk to people, always say ‘nice to meet you.’ We want them to think it was nice to meet them.” Fuck you, man. Fuck both of us. Who gives a shit about us? What about that poor girl?

Stay tuned after the news for According to Jim.


Cer-Vix-a-Lot and DJ Strabismus

Act 1

Why did those ridiculous Roman bastards run out of words right when the got to the part of medical lexography where they had to name your neck and your bajingo? They were like, “Well, we’ll call this a cervix. And this… well… let’s just call it… a cervix.” The upshot: it makes it almost as hard to stifle laughter when you hear that there are vibrators made for “cervical massage” as it is the first time you learn there’s a cubist sculptor named Lipchitz. Who doesn’t love to ponder cubist sculptures of Lipchitz?
(“That’s me!”)

And as if that wasn't bad enough, he cast his sculptures out of bronze in the 40s and 50s, so now they look like this.
This is why they tell you you're supposed to be mature in school. Because as your education continues, you start to realize that the world is a little bit retarded, emotionally and socially and especially etymologically, and it's not cool to laugh at... that sort of thing... no matter how amusing it may be.

Act 2

I have a problem with my face. My eyes don’t want to work together anymore, so I can’t read for longer than ten minutes or so without getting a pretty bad headache (it’s actually more like an eye-ache) that takes three or four hours to go away. What this means as I gear up to move a bajillion miles away to attend a graduate school in English most regularly described as “intense,” I don’t know. I'm suppopsed to start vision therapy soon, which sounds like an absolute blast. (My friend Steve said it best when he said, "You have to train your eyes for his magic glasses?") The medical condition, I gather, is called Strabismus, who I swear to god is a terrible, long-forgotten composer of the Romantic period of classical music. And now, pray tune thine ears for the joyful noise of Strabismus's second symphony. Holla!

My dad wanted to help. So what he did was, he threw gobs of money at a (possible) peripheral cause of my vision deficiency, and he bought me a 22-inch widescreen flat-panel Samsung LCD computer monitor.

Of course - I mean, I'm human - the first thing I did when I got it home was watch porn on it. And porn looks pretty amazing on a 22-inch widescreen flat-panel Samsung LCD computer monitor. And then I thought, "Why is your neck and your bajingo named the same thing?" God only knows why I said "your bajingo," because I was alone at the time. But that’s not really the point.

*note: I've always thought "(lol)" looked like the Bat Signal.*

The point is - well, one of the points is that, on a 22-inch monitor, extreme close-ups in porn are almost life-sized, but not quite, unless the actors are actually a good deal smaller than you'd expect, but still more or less proportionate (plus or minus some silicates). And that is weird. Another point is that, I also tested the monitor by watching a chunk of It's A Wonderful Life, and that is also weird.

Still another point is that, a clear contender for my favorite song of all time is “21st Century Digital Boy” by Bad Religion. And I always bristle when people say they’re pretty sure a song is about them. But I’m pretty sure this song is about me. Not in a good way, though.

I’m a 21st Century Digital Boy
I don’t know how to read, but I’ve got a lot of toys.
(Everything I want, I really need.)


Let do.

How strange must this exchange have been the first time it happened:

-Thank you.
-You’re welcome.

We don’t really have a way to thank somebody, right? We just have a way of telling them that they have been thanked. That’s fucked up. “I thank you” basically means, “you are thanked by me.” It’s like, “I knight thee,” or “I now proclaim you husband and wife.” It registers that something has happened, without anything happening.

Sure, you can say, “I appreciate it,” but nobody does, and anyway, it's all about I. We say “thanks a lot,” “thanks a million,” “thanks.” What a strange sound that is. Thanx. It sounds like something visceral. A shiv in the shank and an ax in the thanx and the blood filled the Thames, and the sorrow.

So it makes sense that the first time somebody said, “thank you,” the other person was so caught off guard that, instead of saying, “your gratitude is registered and appreciated,” they said, “my domain is open to you. You are welcome.” Walk all over me.

Or, pre-emptively, you can say you're welcome by saying, “help yourself.” Because I ain't doing it. Laissez-faire, motherfucker.

-Help yourself.
-No problem.