Hurtling through space in a cable-knit sweater

I did "I Want It That Way" karaoke last night at a bowling alley as a duet with a friend of mine, and let me tell, you ladies and germs, I killed. Like an Ebola-infected Milton Berle in a gymnasium full of refugees.

So one thing that Maryland has, and you don't, is duckpin bowling. It's just like regular bowling, but with a tiny ball without holes that you can wing down the lane.

Fun fact: Maryland's official state drink is milk.

More to the point, Maryland's official state sport is jousting. Motherfucking jousting.

But some time ago, there was an underground, revolutionary movement to change the official sport to duckpin bowling. But it didn't get enough traction. The man wasn't having it, and he crushed the hopes and dreams of little girls all over the world. Like this one.

photo credit

Or would have, if you could duckpin bowl somewhere else in the world. But you can't. Because Maryland's got it, and you don't. Unless you live in New England or Quebec, which apparently also have it.

One thing about bowling is, you get drunk while you're doing it. So now I have to shake off this hangover and go see the Fiery Furnaces tonight, which I'm less excited to do than I wish I were, notwithstanding my crush on Eleanor Friedberger, #3 on my list of top 10 hip rock chicks.

My blog just turned a year old, by the way. That post was one of my favorites, and happily, it was my most popular post. Or it would have, were it not for the late night rally sadly staged by something I wrote about watching movies with your parents. I took it down, but it still gets like 15 hits a day. Check out these search results from last Thursday and see if you can get the gist.

Porn-hunting preteens and dyslexic janitors with geysers of oedipal anxiety constitute the bulk of my audience, I think. I guess #8 thought that by repeating the real important words he's be more likely to get the good stuff. And I totally love the superfluous "y" on #10.


Good nature

More than anything else, I hate people who are obviously better than you are -- better in every way, really -- but still treat you like you're equals.


The myth of fingerprince

A short state of the union, mostly about things eaten and seen recently:

I made risotto for breakfast at like 5:30 this morning, but I don't really know how to make risotto since I've never made it before. But now I know that undercooked risotto tastes almost exactly like undercooked popcorn. Like I needed another reason to think the gourmet industry is a sham. I did eat my first truffle last week. But I couldn't taste it. Plus, I consistently find that colby cheese is the most underrated of all cheeses.

I watched the entire first season of Dexter in a straight shot the other day. It's only about ten hours, so it could have been worse, as far as pathetic ways to spend a day go. Could have been, if there weren't two football games on afterwards. But that's not the point. It's a pretty good show. On the one hand, Michael C. Hall, who plays David on Six Feet Under, is so much more doable with his hair done all disheveled that it's crazy.

<- Less doable

<- More doable

Plus, check out his triceps. They're amazing. On the other hand, the show's big mid-season plot twist is so predictable it's even crazier, and the end-of-season twist of the knife that they try to tack on is, if it's possible, even more predictable. But that doesn't really mean it's bad, because what's fun about the show is how doable Michael C. Hall is in it, and, more especially, how much I want Dexter's sister to make me feel like an idiot.

One of the cooler things about the show, in terms of my response to it, was my relationship, as a viewer, with said sister. She's written as this foul-mouthed romantic, and they cast this nine foot tall amazon athlete woman with seemingly no sense of shame to play her. Needless to say, I fell in love with her in pretty much her first scene onscreen. But what's cool is, a quarter of the way through the season she turns into the demonic diva harpy. But then, just like always happens, it turns she's wounded and vulnerable and she needs help, and she can't quite get enough of it and that damages her even more, but when anybody tries to help her, the that just ends up damaging her even more – effectively creating a microcosm for every relationship I've ever had. Pretty cool. Then, in the second to last episode, you get to hear her voicemail prompt, and it's “It's Deb. Do it.” And they play it a few times during high-drama, high-tension scenes, and it made me laugh every time.

I watched Hard Candy last week at five in the morning, by myself, with nobody else. Best poster ever?

Ellen Page, in this movie, reminds me of an ex of mine, mostly by merit of this particular look she has – she'll stare somebody down like he's a fucking idiot, but at the same time like she's completely enchanted. It's irritatingly endearing, and I was continually making the connection, because there are just these intertwined airs of gravitas and flippancy that pop up and run parallel over and over, and it's just a very familiar sort of thing. But then, the movie gets to this – and this is a minor spoiler for the movie, so if you want to see Hard Candy fresh, and I recommend it, I guess don't read this? – this half-hour long castration sequence where Ellen Page ties Patrick Wilson to a table and taunts him while she cuts off his junk. Seriously, like a half-hour. And it was just harrowing to watch. It would have been harrowing anyway, but I had all this extra Freud baggage to go with it. A chunk into it, I had to take a break because it was too taxing to watch. So I went down to the laundry room in my building, where there's a pop machine, and bought a Pepsi. And then, on my way back to the elevator, I accidentally sneaked up behind a maintenance guy in a Fat Albert parka and scared the shit out of him. It was kind of wonderful.

I wrote two of the worst papers imaginable after I got back comments for my first one that threw around the P word (rhymes with "mublishable"). Also: I think I hate grad school.

My brain doesn't understand the fact that Heath Ledger is dead, and I understand now that my love-hate thing with him is the biggest compliment I could've paid him. I do wish I could have paid him a bigger one.

Be well, friends.


In every wish and dream and happy home, you will find the kingdom of the gnome, Or, Skittle Rebellion in the Libunker

I want to say it represents some kind of sea change in human history that OpenOffice's spellchecker doesn't recognize "Thermopylae," and instead suggests "thermoplastics."

One time I was in a library carrel trying to read, and this guy in the carrel next to me kept typing on his laptop and smacking on something. It was a horrible noise, a horrible combination of noises. The indomitable click-click-click underscored by a wet slurp-slurp-slurp, smack-smack-smack, like in those cartoons where a bear is eating honey, and he kept trying to talk himself through physics problems sotto voce. Really. He called himself an idiot more than a few times. I got more and more distracted, and angrier and angrier, and finally I had to know what he was eating. So I stood up and walked behind him and leaned over his shoulder.


So to get revenge, I'm sitting in a library carrel, typing as loudly as possible on my laptop and eating whole mouthfuls of Skittles at a time. Sure, the guy isn't here. But it isn't about the guy. It's about us against the system. I like to think that ultimately, that physicist liberated me, and now I'm liberating someone else. He was like Morpheus to my Neo, rousing sleepers from their pathetic workaday existences one sloppy sugar-dollop swallow at a time. It's the Skittle Rebellion.

Our library is a bunker. Most buildings, they go up. This one goes down. I'm on D-level, which is 4 stories under the soil. It's a soulless place. Tucked away at the same depth that very rich people keep very expensive things sits a small rebel group of lonely scholars trying to frantically finish something for the semester that ended a month ago, or start something for the semester that's already here in spirit.

Me, I'm trying to finish. And I'm way behind.

Say, 5,500 words in the red is an alarmist estimate. And not so much as a completed paragraph in sight. Due date looming. 11. 12. 13. 14.

And I feel like David the Gnome.

Or, in Spanish, David el Gnomo. Did you ever think there was something a little bit condescending, even stand-offish about the theme song? "And if your heart is true, you will find them too"? Well, what the fuck, what if I don't find them? What then? What are you saying about me?

What's up now, bitch?

Everyone is gone now. I've driven them away with my click-click-clicking and my smack-smack-smacking. There is, though, a small cadre of police officers down in the bunker with me, sweeping the stacks, looking for a man. A cop just walked by and asked if I'd seen "a real tall" -- he put his hand up in the air, to indicate tallness -- "black guy, bald head" -- he put his hand on his head, to indicate baldness -- "black leather jacket" -- he popped an imaginary collar. I told him I hadn't and apologized, and he said, "oh, no problem!" like he'd hurt my feelings. He left, regrouped with his posse, and they again took up their reconnoiter. Like in Die Hard.

Now I'm alone in a dark library bunker basement, but for a suspect, who is evading police. And all the police are gone. When one needs badly to concentrate, there's nothing quite like a generically scary thriller movie preamble to keep the mind on task.

They walk past again.

Cop #1: He's probably in the stairwell somewhere.
Cop #2: He came down the stairwell.
Cop #1: All the way down here?
Cop #2: Yeah!

Let the force be with you. This is like Police Squad.

We built this city -- we built this city on smack and coke.

Edit: OH SNAP!


An eyeful of DOME

I'm a big fan of leaving your phone number for waitresses. I've never done it myself, but I've cheered on many a brave, foolish warrior as he throws himself on that limp short-sword.

Tonight, we had a hot waitress. One of those chummy, accessible waitresses who manages to look like she knows exactly what everything on the menu tastes like, but still get a huge tip that's not at all based on quality service. Plus, she was chummy and friendly, and even willing to be a little geeky.

This, naturally, became a source of conversation amongst us.

So when she brought the check -- and with it, a comment card "so the management knows how we're doing" -- it was already a bad scene in the making.

Nick took it marked "excellent" for every category, and then wrote "Hot." Then, he wrote "-- Do Me."

After a moment of shock and awe, we started trying to find away around this. The most plausible argument was that the letters were all really close together, so it looked like "Hot DoMe." This, Jesse suggested, could be the first terraformed colony on Mars. So I took the card and started writing. While I was doing it, the waitress came back and mentioned that her little brother was thinking of majoring in journalism, and she asked us if it was a good idea. I looked up from the card onto which I was scribbling and said, "is he cut-throat?" She said he wasn't. I said, "then he should probably find something else." And then I bent back over the card.

When all was said and done, the card read

Hot -- DoMe
Is the name of the first terraformed colony on Mars.
You should go there,
and start a restaurant,
and hire waitresses
as good
as this

Then, I realized, she'd seen me writing when I told her to keep her brother out of the news room. So, when we left and she said, "Great, now I get to read it," and she got an eyefull of "Do Me," she probably thought it was from me.

There's nothing quite like accidental bravery that isn't even yours to make you feel like an idiot.


Hungry bread & butter hustle

"Eventually we will blanket the globe in wireless broadband connectivity."
~ranking Intel dude

Is it just me, or is there something really sinister about that? It's like, "Hey, I've seen movies where people say things like that and then the next thing you know agents are ransacking your house because you got passed a pamphlet by somebody you had Sunday School with about the idyllic era that existed before the internet swallowed our souls, and stormtroopers are standing on your head with jackboots that are covered in seemingly superfluous metal clasps and they're wearing gas masks for some reason and hitting you with cudgels in a really dank, shady prison that's all garish white tiles and fluorescent lights and a stainless steel toilet in the corner that's also the only source of drinking water and you seem to be literally the only prisoner because nobody else even thought of thinking of a time before this perfect world of totalitarian skullfuckery."

That said. I can't wait for this shit.

Yesterday I went to RadioShack, which is something I try to avoid doing at all costs, but I still haven't fixed my car, and Vista still won't work with my old wireless adapter, and I saw online that they had one on sale for $39.95. Of course, when I got there, the one that was on sale was out of stock. We can only assume it doesn't exist. So I was faced with a choice. Do I leave this horrible, shady hell of markups and cutrates, or do I suck it up and overpay for an inferior product? Because I swear to God, RadioShack managers go through every box after hours and install a tiny bomb in every gadget that is set to blow at 12:01 AM the day the return policy expires.

Let's weigh the options, now that the $40 modem has left the playing field. There's the $60 one, the $70 one, and the $80 one. And what's this? The $80 one is called the "RangeMax." It trumpets, "10X THE RANGE OF 801.22." And since I live in an extraordinarily tall building, and steal the internet mercilessly, visions of sugarplums start dancing in my head. Just imagine all the untapped internet connections, ripe for the plucking! Old women in retirement condos, young nurses who don't know what WEP is, middle-aged men who can't be bothered to learn passwords. And all of them able to afford the $47 that Comcast can somehow legally charge every month for a service that requires almost literally no upkeep!

So, like a sucker, I whip out my plastic and leave with the RangeMax. Walk home swinging the bag like a Gene Kelly umbrella. I am going to steal the shit out of some internet.

I get home. I install the driver. I plug that bitch into the USB slot.



Surely you saw that climax coming.

The great thing about spotty wireless coverage is that it gives you another sphere of life in which to make ridiculously ingenious discoveries that you instantly take for granted. Like how you eventually figure out that the radio will only turn on in your car if you punch the dashboard seven and only seven times to the rhythm of Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted" and then crank down the window as fast as you can while turning the radio dial all the way to the right and saying "rubber baby buggy bumpers" without screwing up. You plug in your modem. You stand on a chair. You put books on a chair and then stand on those. You stand on one foot and get a bit of a signal, and then you start to hop and get a slightly better signal, so you keep hopping, but then the signal starts to fade and it takes you five minutes to realize that your standing on one foot and hopping had nothing to do with the improvement. Then you realize a cloud passed overhead at north-northeast traveling at 27 miles per hour so you do a raindance and get one more bar of reception. Then you start daisy-chaining USB extension cables together and hiding the modem in various places, and then running back to the computer to see if you've gained or lost bars. Then you forget where you hid it. Then you remember.

I eventually discovered that if I daisy-chain three extension cables, totaling 15 feet, and drape them over my bed, I can open the window and just manage to hang the adapter out of it, and get an only marginally worse signal than I would if I had a plate in my head. And it only drops, oh, say, every time a baby cries anywhere in the world. And then all I have to do is unplug it and plug it back in, which works one out of six times. The other five I have to reboot.

So thank you, Netgear, for making a wireless adapter that works significantly worse than the first generation Linksys monstrosity that I've been using for five years now. And thank you RadioShack, for making hovels of stores that are so dingy and unpleasant that I probably won't even have the heart to return it. And even if I did, there would probably be some clause in the contract I didn't know I signed that stipulates that since I don't have a first-born to offer in sacrifice, I am not qualified for a refund. And thank you, Intel, for working on the great American police state as slowly as possible, depriving me of live, up-to-the-minute sports scores and weather updates.

And they say we're an entitled generation. Piffle.

Viva Boniva!

If you're going to make something called Boniva

and it's not going to be an erectile dysfunction medication, what are you doing getting Sally Field to be your spokeswoman?

You're just begging for jokes.

Sally Fields promotes my bone health, you know what I'm saying?!

If it weren't for Sally Fields raising awareness, I wouldn't be thinking of my own bone health right now.

If Sally Fields promotes your bone health for more than four hours, immediately call your doctor, you know what I'm saying?!

Sally Fields can viva my boniva!

That's probably enough.


Amanda Ponyum

This morning, I shit you not, I watched part of an episode of the Carmen Sandiego cartoon on Univision that was dubbed in Russian and subtitled in Spanish. It was fantastic.

Less fantastically, I was supposed to go to somebody's house to watch Willard, the movie where Crispin Glover gets all moody and befriends rats.

This would have been fantastic, of course. But I call down to the front desk and ask to have my car brought up from the garage. The valet can't get my car started. I'm finally paying my penance for living in a building with valets and doormen named 'Terrence' and 'Ronald' and 'Victor.' The valet's name is 'Frasier.' After 5 months, I'm still on the same tank of gas I was on when I got here. And my battery's not to happy about it. So now I've got to call AAA, which I've never done before, and am tricking myself into thinking I don't have time to do. The only consolation was this music video, made to accompany Willard.

It's Crispin Glover covering "Ben" by Michael Jackson, and it's sublime. In a way, the original promo clip is equally bizarre -- not so much for what happens in it, but for what happened after it. Y'know.

Abrupt transition: I'm catsitting. Every day I have to go to somebody's apartment, buzz myself in, check the mail, and then look after these two little brickshitting terrorists who have 22 hours of pent-up energy from the last time I saw them. Their names are Sam and Jasper, but I call them Jam and Sasper because I can never remember which is which. One is a hyper scratcher and the other is a sullen biter, and they shit more than they eat. Probably more than they weigh. Probably more than I weigh. Certainly more than I eat. If they were children they would be little nightmare punk fuckers. But they're cats. So they're ridiculously adorable.

I still haven't properly started on either of my two papers, which are now due in a week and a half. I have, however, worried about them full-time. I even went to the library yesterday. I sat down and cracked open the most boring book ever written, and a horrendously boring book about the most boring book ever written, than you very much Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Raymond Williams. Then I took out pens of several colors and a notebook, and promptly tooled around on my laptop for two, maybe three hours. The internet-guest policy at the library stipulates that you cannot use your connection for anything "obscene," and also that you cannot use it for child pornography. It says nothing about regular pornography. So as long as I can find some pornography that's not obscene, I'll be golden.

I needed an internet fix, though, because Windows Vista isn't compatible with anything. I got my new computer, and it's a beautiful freak. Elegant, speedy, and unacceptable. I've got nothing to do with it because it refuses to recognize my wireless adapter, which means I can't do the one thing I've done every day since I've moved here: steal the internet from my neighbor. Unless I use my old computer, like I am now, but it sort of takes the shine off of having a new computer. So I'm a doozy of a pickle. I can either keep stealing the internet -- but I'll have to go buy a new wireless adapter, which will require me to get my car fixed, and there's no time! -- or I can bite the bullet, call Comcast and start overpaying for a service that would be free to taxpayers if only the government would cut out the overhead largess of clean needle programs and interstate highways. We should turn over control of internet communications services to the mob. They're friendlier, more forgiving people, and leagues better at customer service.

I've been falling asleep at 7:30 PM and waking up at 3 AM since I got back. It's not very cool, because I do all my good work late at night, when there's nothing else to do. You can always find stuff to do in the morning. You can make an elaborate breakfast that turns out to be inedible, and then you can throw that breakfast away. You can keep abreast of current events and ogle Matt Lauer's pretty-boy-in-the-wrecking hairline. What a charmer. You can just lay in bed for three hours wondering why, god, won't you let me sleep. I did some of that this morning. But what you cannot do is write a paper. All papers, to my mind, should be written on the edge, pushing the envelope, motivated by the terror of failure, the near inevitability of shame that can only be avoided by some miracle. And it's your job to make that miracle. That terror, though -- that ambrosial, miracle-making terror -- only comes out at night. Writing in the morning is only a minor inconvenience, and inconvenience is the one thing I'm not willing to put up with in the morning. I'll languorously make two cups of tea, put on fuzzy slippers, and walk from room to room forgetting what I meant to do in each, but I will not be inconvenienced. I'll check the TV listings four or five times to make sure I remember the correct start times of the two NFL playoff games that are on later, but I will not be inconvenienced. I will stare at the trash, but I will not take it out.

The one New Year's resolution I did manage to come up with -- eat more sugar in the morning -- is going along swimmingly.


Cognitive psych! Or, That's the way it goes, I guess

I'm pretty sure it's not just nostalgia talking when I say, some things were better then.

But now that we've gotten the PM Dawn out of the way, I feel a fresh wave of mild confessionalism coming. A post-holiday dose of Richard Ford-ified conventional wisdom.

Od's blood, guys. Happy fucking New Year. I fucking hate New Years. Fuck you.

The buildup and comedown of the holidays is always the worst. On top of Mike Huckabee urging us to think of Jesus and how you and your family can never live up to the ideal of the suburban American sublime and everybody else seems to be all Miracle on Elm Street and what's wrong with you, which is by now de rigueur, it's also the time of year in which the worst stuff happens. For example: I'm getting a zit in my nose. If you think that would happen in July, then fuck you.

I've got no resolutions. If Beam were as good as Jack, it would have no reason to exist. We need that $13 bottle just as much as we need that $23. I don't operate in terms of injunctions. Thou shalt not! I'm a newer model. I run on shame, the world's greatest renewable resource. I don't have New Year's resolutions. I have New Year's trepidations.

1. I should develop a work ethic.
2. I should keep a clean house.
3. I should do yoga... or something. I should do something.
4. I shouldn't eat animals.
5. I shouldn't be such an asshole all the time.
6. I should volunteer.
7. I should make sure to recycle recyclables.
8. I should take pride in my work.
9. I should write something that’s better than the things I write.
10. I should try harder to be better than I am.
11. I should suck it up.
12. I wish I were funnier. I should be funnier.
13. I should be more serious.
14. I should be interested in more things.
15. I should stop stealing the internet.
16. I should get more money so I can afford the internet.
17. I shouldn't worry so much about money, or about anything, really.
18. I should stop telling myself what I should do, and I should do something.
19. I shouldn't be so negative.
20. I shouldn't be so lazy. No no no!
21. I should be happy. I should do all the things that I need to do to make me happy.
22. I should own the things about myself that I don't like and can't change. People like it when you own your flaws.
23. I shouldn’t worry so much about what people think of me.
24. People should like me more.
25. I ought to do something about all these things right now. Go!

Go, I said!

But that's ok. Because resolutions don't work. People get their resolutions and they say Goddamnit, this is getting done this year. And then they forget about them until they find the list next year, right after they've finished making the same list again. But trepidations don't flit and fly like this. They're not as majestic, but they're far more loyal. The trick is -- the trick I've been learning slowly slowly slowly for the last 24 years -- the trick is not to let them shout you down. They're like your children. Either the best or the worst thing that ever happened to you.

So fuck you, New Year. I'll see you next year. And I'll be in a better place than I was this year. Remember me last year? You won't catch me like that again. Game on, New Year. We'll see who laughs last when I die smiling on the hottest day of the summer with ice in my drink and a whole life behind me. Huzzah!


A tragedy in three acts.

Act I

Keanu Reeves: I know you don't care about me that much.
Crispin Glover: You... know that!
Keanu Reeves: I fuckin' know you, Laine! You get these, these ideas in your head and you don't think.

Act II

Crispin Glover: About yourself you dumb fuck! How do you expect other people care about you?


Siskel: I saw this and I said, 'this is not overdone.'
Ebert: No.