And that's why it really hurts

The Wednesday / Thursday workload vortex is pelting me with hail-hard, cigarette-sized words like "ontophenomenological." They screech in, do their gnatty-needly damage, and retreat back into the obscurity from which they came. This is, I suppose, what one gets for saving Aristotle, and Derrida's magisterially impenetrable commentary on Aristotle, for the last minute. Can you die from ten-thousand mosquito bites? A bird is chirping.

A nationally-ranked procrastinator who refuses not to get everything done, I find myself in this situation almost every Thursday morning. (That's totally how I'm going to start my first WM seeking WW light BDSM personal.) I have to be on campus in four hours, and I have a little more than four hours worth of work to do between now and then. Green tea + ginseng bounces off me like bees off a bullet proof vest. All four of my classes -- nine hours in all -- are concentrated within a 27-hour span, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the next day. I'm pretty sure my teachers think I'm high. But I'm just really tired, is all.

I think of Friday as me-time. Time to decompress, relax, unwind -- shake off my usual rail gin hangover. Lose all the luggage I shoved into my short-term memory's overhead compartment. The weekend? It's the weekend. Nobody works on the weekend. Work for the weekend, dummy. That's how the Loverboy song goes, and Loverboy is never wrong. This leaves me, every week, with two days to prepare, at my leisure, for three classes -- and then the sturm und drang blitzkrieg of Wednesday night, which is so abrasive it can only be described in German. Or possibly Japanese, but I don't know any. Sing it.

Hey, you know what's awesome? I live on the 15th floor. And I'm a holy cow! Thanks, boys.

Fuck you, bird.


That don't make no sense

Don't get excited. We'll get to Total Recall in a moment.

I've had a trouble concentrating for the last month or so. I blamed a dopamine deficiency. I blamed cabin fever. I blamed a sedentary lifestyle, a bad diet, ill-fitting shoes, barometric pressure, antisemitism, the Jews, the disconcerting worldwide indifference in contemporary discourse to the possibility of the religious correctness of Orthodox Judaism -- what if they really are God's chosen people? -- and my abject lack of a Posturepedic bed.

But I'm done blaming my problems on other people. Because who's to blame? Henry James is to blame.

Late-period Henry James comes at my brain like a scurvy dervish and pelts it into submission. I am infrequently, literally driven into a fetal position on the bed while I piss and moan and wail softly to myself about the prospect of trying to read a few hundred more three-page paragraphs that are about as sequitur as a Monty Python skit. Henry James makes me piss the bed. Good thing it's not a Sealy.

His books have the same effect on my interpretive faculties as this picture, minus the giddiness.

Which is to say, they pummel them into submission. What the fuck, WHAT THE FUCK. This can't be happening!

In a desperate bid to concentrate harder, better, faster, stronger, I have been driven to read articles on the internet about brain enhancement. Memory enhancement. Concentration exercises. Breast implants. Did you know that there was a study wherein people were directed to think about exercising their biceps for 15 minutes a day, and, 3 months later, their arms were 13% stronger, sans exercise? I didn't, but then I did, because I read an article about it that sapped me of 10 valuable minutes that I could have spent reading two pages of Henry James. All in the service, you understand, of reading Henry James more efficiently. I've smoked 9 cigarettes in my non-smoking apartment because smoke-breaks are, in a very real sense, a way not to read Henry James.

Here's how bad it's gotten. I've romantically reminisced about the times I've watched Total Recall. Sat there, thinking, I remember watching Total Recall.

I want so badly to watch Total Recall, but I can't, because that's valuable time I could be spending in more active pursuit of avoiding my responsibility to read Henry James.

I tried to fall asleep to Total Recall last night, but I couldn't because I was too captivated by it. I had to turn it off. Henry James cost me even that. My last shred of dignity? Perhaps.

Total Recall is one of the more impressive movies ever made, says I, because there's not a single sequence that goes by without the least plausible thing that could possibly happen, happening. "We've got another schizoid embolism!" screams a lady doctor. Schwarzenegger tries to smuggle himself onto Mars in an old lady fat-suit, but it can, for no reason that could possibly be justified by the plot or anything else, only say "two weeks," so it has a seizure and reveals this hysterically unpassable animatronic version likeness of Arnie.

It's like somebody left the wax dummy in the back seat on a SoCal summer day and it melted and flowed four inches downhill before an intern found it. Probably cost the poor bastard his job. But that's might not even be as bad as it gets. Total Recall features some of the all-time worst movie magic, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Do you see what Henry James is keeping me from? I have six (6) pages of The Ambassadors to go. Before I'm finished. If it were any other book I hated this much, I would be ecstatic. I would be standing on my hands in front of the Washington Monument, which is what I always do to celebrate -- as seen here.

But I'm not. I'm not standing on my hands in front of the Washington Monument. Because I'm the longest half-hour of my life away from having stared the devil in the face and come away. Oh, sure, I'll come away. But you don't come away from something like that without something in your soul twisting, corrugating, turning green and septic. I am killing myself to live. I am killing myself back to life. My brain is dying so that my body can be free of this unutterable burden. My heart is being gnawed away like so much fox leg caught in a bear trap. I want to live! I am the resurrection, and I prove only the horror of that which is to come. To come, to come, l'avenir -- The Golden Bowl and Wings of the Dove. I must away, I must piss the bed and gnaw off my leg.

Henry James is Keith Olbermann's Worst Person Ever. He fucking should be anyway. If he were still alive, I'd burn his house down.


A mouthful of cheese

Today, my paper clip came alive. It flew to me and alighted on my desk. We instantly fell in love.

We had a baby, and named him Jean-Wayne Chikatilo Flowbear.

When Jean-Wayne got older, he became arrogant and spoiled. He felt himself entitled to our undivided attention. He began to take us for granted. We couldn't get a moment's peace, much less a single word of appreciation for all the sacrifices we made for him. So we had another baby to spite him.

We don't quite know where Jean-Wayne spends his time anymore, but we have reason to suspect he's killing neighborhood pets burning the bodies in firing barrels.

The end.

I went shopping today for the first time in forever, and then I made one of those salads. The kind where the balance is a little off, you know, so you get in there with the fork without looking down and you end up with a mouthful of cheese, three olives, and a firecracker. But I'm eating salad, lately, because I'm feeling tugged by this vague but nagging urge to self-improve, which manifests itself in eating greens and fruits and roughage, and working out with half my heart and half my ass. Drinking sickly-sugary green tea instead of pop, which, for the fourth time in my life, I have to learn to call "soda" again.

I want I want I want a cigarette. I don't even really smoke, but I want to squash this trajectory or I might actually start feeling good, and could anything be more dangerous? From the first time I heard the Sebadoh, I started associating contentment with adequacy, adequacy with selling out, selling out with middle age, and middle age with irrelevance, which is tantamount to death. But, the intractable aging process continues, and I now own a potato masher, an apple corer, and a "Euro peeler," which is like a normal peeler, but more expensive.

I bought my first rug last week. I bought a fucking rug. From Target. I'm 99% of the way to being halfway to 50 years old. Body by Stouffer's. Rug by Target. The bourgeoisie is calling me, and I'm starting to resent poverty. Like the first time you think of somebody you used to be in love with and you realize, not only are you not in love with her anymore -- you don't even care how she's doing. "Wow, you went to Siberia? How'd that go? Welp, see ya later!" That's how I feel about being poor. I could be making 28 Gs and tucking my Oxford in every day. Wearing sock-suspenders and shit. But instead I make slightly less than that, wear whatever I want, and wake up at 2 in the afternoon. Misery, thy name is Flowbear.

We found out, recently -- us grad students -- that we don't get summer funding in our first year. This is the difference, for me, between a cartoony, Kanye West-esque break full of video hoes and summer-fun snow cones on the one hand, and grinding it out on my fucking leather ass, to quote Worm from Rounders, on the other. This news hit me two days before the lady who manages my building told me the garage fee isn't included in my rent, which is exactly the opposite of what she told me eight months ago, which means I owe garage fees for the last -- let me do the math real fast in my head -- eight months. I'd never before wanted so badly to fight such a powerful-looking woman. I was furious, but summoning all the c'est la vie I could, I said, "what are you gonna do." One thing that happens when I say this -- and it always blows my mind -- is that people actually think I'm asking them what they're going to do, and not just saying, you know, fuggedaboudit.

"The question is," she says, "what are you gonna do?"

She didn't really say that. I can't remember what she said, but whatever it was pissed me off. If she had said that, though, I'd be force feeding her spinach soufflé somewhere where they'd never find her, poking holes in her moles to see if they'd bleed. Running up and pushing the button on a dunk tank and, when she floats -- because, you understand, she's so fat -- yelling "She's a witch! Burn her!" over and over for eternity.

Not really. Is this mean-spirited? I don't pretend to have the answers to these questions.

I'm going to write a novel with an old wise man-type character named Phantom Smokeballs in it. He's going to dole out sententious, unhelpful advice to people just like me. "Roll with the blows, young'un. One day pain will make you a man." Then, one day, somebody's going to stab him, and when he doesn't bleed, a thousand ravenous English majors are going to set him on fire.

I keep having these daydreams. I'm talking to faceless professors, and I'm telling them, "I've hit a bit of a wall, mentally." They don't care. They stare at me, nonplussed but unimpressed. "I'm fatigued," I explain. Their black-hole eyes burrow into my heart and lay eggs. "I don't care at all about this shit I have to read." They gyrate against their wall-to-wall bookshelves, each filled floor-to-ceiling with broke-backed volumes, each cover-to-cover with blank pages. "I've memorized them," they say. They dip cotton-wrapped clubs in oil and light torches, like the mob in Frankenstein. The movie, not the book. "I fucking hate books," I say. They put the torches to me, and I go up like an inky paper doll. Burn words burn.

It's kind of amazing how mental fatigue can turn into emotional and even physical fatigue. I'm generally hyperemotional and spastic, one minute raving like a tazered monkey, the next a sulking, taciturn, grudging tool. But lately, I just feel kind of... withdrawn. And I think it's because I feel persecuted -- literally, persecuted -- by the workload of graduate studentry. At the risk of calling privilege poison, there's a certain irony one feels whilst feverishly and compulsorily studying the ethics of oppression.


To misquote that great author Stephen King: "I wish I could tell you that [Flowbear] fought the good fight, and the [Professors] let him be. I wish I could tell you that. But [graduate school] is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile. [Graduate school] life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, [Flowbear] would show up with fresh bruises. The [Professors] kept at him -- sometimes he was able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for [Flowbear]. That was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him. "

Every Wednesday, I feel this deathcold wave hovering over me, threatening to break and crash on me like it crashed on Swayze at the end of Point Break, minus the Christlike undercurrent of self-sacrificial redemption. It's almost impossible for me to like any Henry James novels when I have to read 10 of them in 13 weeks. It's impossible for me to like books, period. And I was already on the fence. But it's not like they didn't warn me. Kids, don't go to grad school in English unless you really, really like to read.

"There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who [applied to graduate school]. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. [Educated]? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, [Professor], and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit."

Oh, of course, I'm being self-indulgent, and pathetically self-regarding. In six weeks, I'll be free as the wind blows-slash-grass grows, and it'll be fantastic, and I'll be glad. I'll marvel at how much I learned. I'll joice at my treasure-stuffed brain as it leaks its overflowing wisdom onto everyone that rubs it, and the queue to touch my throbbing noodle will be long, indeed (TWSS). The gauntlet will be run. The crucible will hang fire. The alembic will have made gold. The carcass bubbling in its own fat will have turned, not unlike Cindarella, into a delicious fried chicken.

But right now, goddammit, I'm exhausted.


10 or so people I like better than Henry James:

1) James "Buster" Douglas
2) Buster Keaton
3) Michael Keaton
4) Michael Douglas
5) Kirk Douglas
6) James Douglas Morrison
6.5) James T. Kirk
7) William James
8) James Jamerson
9) every famous Jim Jones, including the poison Kool-Aid one
10) Jim Jarmusch
11) O. Henry
12) Jim Henson
13) Yoda


Ten things I like better Henry James novels:

1) dandruff
2) dandruff shampoo
3) dandruff shampoo commercials
4) dust made of dead skin
5) that James Spader movie where James Spader gets in car accidents and has sex that's called Crash that's way better than that piece of shit Crash that came out a decade later and won a bunch of Oscars
6) that James Marshall movie where James Marshall is a boxer in high school who has to box Brian Dennehy to avenge Cuba Gooding Jr's ambiguous brain injury that's called Gladiator that's way better than that piece of shit Gladiator that came out a decade later and won a bunch of Oscars
7) the piece of shit Crash that came out a couple years ago and won a bunch of Oscars
8) the piece of shit Gladiator etc. etc. etc.
9) bacci ball
10) ethnic humor

These are just the first ten things that came to mind. I could go on. For years, probably.


That depends on how you say 'ménage à trois' in French

Courtesy of the Smithsonian:

Check out the bosoms on Our Lady Freedom, too, as she grips the sword and the flag in the milky clouds over wine country. Somebody knew exactly what they were doing. Well, that, or Lacan was right. Can't it be both?

Note: I received no permission of any kind from the Smithsonian. That's what makes it funny.


Et tu, Tucci?

When you think of the Lincoln Memorial, you think: historic craftsmanship, inspiring oratory, distinctively handsome features, a fine turn as the cantankerous airport manager in the Tom Hanks vehicle The Terminal.

Funnily enough, these same terms describe two time Golden Globe Award-winning actor Stanley Tucci, whom I saw at the Memorial the other day. I was leaning up against a pillar, reading the second inaugural address, and, after losing interest about halfway through, I looked over at the other pillar. Who should be leaning against it, squinting to maintain concentration long enough to honor the legacy of America but not having any more success than I, but Stanley Tucci. I said to my friend, "Hey, that's Stanley Tucci!"

To which my friend replied, "Who?"

I tried to explain under my breath that Tucci is the actor who (irony?) plays the spook in The Pelican Brief who assassinates a powerful man in a theater. Granted, it's a porno theater, and he strangles the dude with a piece of rope that he's wearing as a belt -- (then he feels himself up really creepily, in one of the first moments of pathological eroticism to ever freak me out as a child) -- instead of, say, leaping off a balcony and yelling "Thus ever to tyrants!" But it's hard to explain such things when time is of the essence. The Tuccis had had enough -- they were leaving! My friend badgered me to talk to him, to tell him hello, to ask for a picture in front of the statue, arms over shoulders like we knew each other from 'Nam or something. But I didn't want to confront him, because most of what I know of the man is that (1) he killed John Heard and then tried to trick Julia Roberts into thinking that he was John Heard by wearing a red ball cap and stuffing a pillow down his shirt, (2) that he tried to keep the Soviet Tom Hanks from achieving his dream of meeting every great jazz musician in a photo, and (3) that he ought to play Philip Roth in a straight-to-cable biopic.

Also, I know that I must have been really high when I watched Road to Perdition, because apparently he's in it. And what do you say to a guy like that?

I knew what I had to do. I beat a path to the entrance of the shrine, and, shrouded in shadow, I framed up the Tuccis in the least conspicuous manner -- bottom right, trying to signify that obviously all I wanted was a snapshot of the 13th President doing his memorial marble thang from a distance. I was sure it would be inconspicuous, that I would have a souvenir of the time I recognized a minor celebrity in the throng of a national landmark at sundown. But I was caught. I was caught by the burning eyes of Kate Tucci -- burning like the devil's own sulphur itself -- which radiated through my camera lens, through the viewfinder, and into my everliving soul where it burned a bubbling open-sore brand that will never heal over.

Eyes that scream but one thing, projecting as loudly and passionately as her husband must have projected in his Tony-nominated turn on Broadway in Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. They scream, "Damn you Paparazzo!"

Or that was Mr. Burns. I forget.


Spitzer on a stranger

With respect to ex-governor Spitzer, have truer words ever been spoken?

In honor of the first ever google search for '"that's what she said" "henry james"' (so far as I know), the first ever HJ single page twofer. Sorta.

Get rich quick scheme 1a: I'm going to start handing out otherwise-blank businesses cards that say,

Your House + Your Tits + My Mouth = $3
(my phone number)

Except it will actually be my phone number. And then I'm just going to let the current carry me. Like Jimmy Buffett, except famous.

The pressure is getting to me.

Depends on what you mean by "better"


Little donkey

I got id'ed today
Buying a burrito.
I gave him my credit card --
This little guy with enormous braces
Who minced like a miniature Q-Tip
(The rapper, not the cotton swob) --
And he was like, "Can I see some id."
And I was like, are you serious.
I couldn't find my id
So I had to give him my debit card
Because it has my picture on it.
He pretended to trust me,
Swiped it,
And then glanced down
At the photo, to make sure it was me,
The real me, who was
Buying a burrito.
Reassured, he showed me
A face full of glinting blue metal.
Who steals a credit card
To buy a burrito?
"That's strike three.
"Three felony counts.
"You're going down for life.
"Hope it was worth it.
"It did look pretty tasty."
Who can pass up a deal,
Even with somebody else's money?


Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower.

So I'm taking a shower and I'm thinking, man, you know how in Top Gun Maverick is always talkin bout, "It's time to buzz the tower?" That's really what people should call trimming their pubes. "Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower." And then I started thinking, you know what's great? When you don't buzz the tower for a while and then you conditioner your pubes for some reason and they get all poofy and feathered and Hasselhoffian, so the only thing they need is some big-rock reverb drums and they'll get a record deal and a super-slow-mo jog along the beach.

And not long after this, I was laughing so hard in the shower that I couldn't breathe. It was really embarrassing. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world.




This, to me, seems like a particularly good find.

Then again, I'm fond of all of my babies.