Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Even More Junk T.V.

(This photo comes from Kim's faux modeling portfolio--she and a friend got drunk and decided on a photo shoot. I don't actually have permission to put this photo up, so consider yourselves privileged.)

Quote of the Day: "When you decide to be something, you can be it. That's what they don't tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I'm saying to you is this: when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?"
-Frank Costello, The Departed
Like any heterosexual male, I like Tyra Banks. Unlike any heterosexual male, however, I love her show America's Next Top Model, or as we fans call it, ANTM. In fact, I think this is my third or fourth post about the show.
Recently, an Australian tabloid published a photo of Banks in a bathing suit, looking a tad heavier than what supermodels "should" be.
Rather than going the straight denial route, she took the issue head on. She went onto her talk show in the same bathing suit and compared herself to a life-size version of the tabloid photo. Needless to say, her negative features in the tabloid photo seem heavily exaggerated.
She didn't stop with that. She openly admits that, at 161 pounds, she is thirty pounds heavier than she was at the height of her modeling career, and she's proud of this. Rock on, Tyra.
She's even gone on to discuss cellulite and other "realities"--a concept that other supermodels don't quite grasp.
When I see your figure-less body prancing up and down that catwalk, with prodruding ribs and collarbones, I'm not thinking glamour. I'm not thinking about the product you're selling. I'm not, believe or not, even thinking about sex. At that moment, my mind is accosted by images of you hulked over some toilet, puking your brains and guts out of your mouth and nose. And it's totally not sexy.
I've never given much thought to Tyra. I've always found her business moves impressive and I'm a big fan of ANTM, but otherwise a I thought she was another flash in the pan model, here today, rehab tomorrow. I've had to reconsider. I wonder if this sense of ethics is something she's always had, or if it's a newfound thing. I hope it's always been there, and even if it hasn't, I find it admirable.
Also, another curvy beauty, Scarlet Johannsen, was recently named Sexiest Woman Alive, or something like that. I wonder if we're finally seeing a change in American tastes? That would be awesome.
What's even better is that Johannsen is a fantastic actress. That's right, I'm not only interested in looks. But when you pair up these looks with such talent--wow.
There's a particularly creepy American Idol audition on T.V. at the moment, so I need to to go fulfill my nightly junk television fix.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Blast From The Past

Quote of the Day: "Nothin' so nifty/as food fun and fifties/ at YesterDave's!/ Yum! Yum!"
-theme from YesterDave's Diner commercials.

I got my first job when I was 14 as a busboy at a local fifties-themed restaurant called YesterDave's. Fifties-themed diners are a dime a dozen, but they're still fun. This one had a DJ booth, a soda fountain, and hostesses who wore poodle skirts and called you "hon."

One of these hostesses, I swear, was bound and determined to take my virginity. She often sent me home, beaming, with lipstick on my cheek. At the time I was pretty proud, being a young man with an older girl (she was in her twenties) hanging off of me and telling everybody how darned cute I was. In hindsight, I now find her actions a tad predatory. Not that it matters--nothing ever went further than a kiss on my cheek. At the time, though I definitely enjoyed the attention, this sex kitten certainly scared the hell out of me.

I was trained by Josh, another busser who, like me, stayed with the restaurant until it finally closed. Theme restaurants are often cursed--the novelty wears off and people lose interest, and YesterDave's was no exception. I was there for three years, and during that time I branched out by working at the soda counter, on the kitchen line, and even as a dishwasher before the restaurant closed it's doors and we all said our tearful goodbyes.

Fast forward to today. I still work in restaurants (that is, hopefully, until I graduate one year from now) as a line cook. Recently, I was surprised to see Josh, the guy that trained me in my very first job, applying as a cook. After YesterDave's closed, he'd gone on to father a child, get married, get divorced, and put on a surprising amount of weight. For some reason, I found this very disconcerting.

I've been with this current restaurant for over a year now, and because of this I am a certified trainer. All this jargon basically means that I am now Josh's trainer.
This whole story is thick with irony. Here I am, training the guy who originally trained me in a restaurant meant to maintain the innocence and naivety of the fifties, a restaurant inevitably forced to close because people's tastes change. People themselves change, though I don't think any of us YesterDave's employees every quite grasped that until the official announcement that YesterDave's was, in fact, closing. It remindes me of a Smith's lyric: "Time's tide will smother you."

Anyway, it feels as if Josh, who was still in high school when he trained me, has lived an entire lifetime and undergone one phase after another since working in that time capsule for however many years. I wonder how he sees me. Have I changed as much as he has? My nostalgia for a decade I've never actually experienced hasn't, and therefore I still have a deep fondness for YesterDave's diner.

Now, I despise the owner of YesterDave's, but when I worked there I loved the place. I couldn't get enough of it. I'd come in even when I wasn't working. I'd hang out and somehow feel important.

I loved everything about that cheesy diner--the jukeboxes, the dark red bar, the stainless steel of my first ever kitchen job, the vinyl booths that made a fart sound whenever somebody sat in them, and the floozy in the poodle skirt that left lipstick on my innocent cheek nightly.

Monday, January 29, 2007

OK, This Semester Needs to End Already

Quote of the Day: "There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator. "
-Maria, Metropolis

Tonight was my second class session of film theory. Already, I'm terrified. I'm an English major, and yet, of all the classes I've taken, the one that requires the largest vocabulary is film theory.

Everything is vague and abstract and incredibly complex. In our syllabus, my professor recommends that we have a Dictionary handy. Sure, that'll fit in my backpack with my multitude of binders, spirals notebooks, and books for my literature classes (including a Bible).

At least now I know how the architecture on Fritz Lang's Metropolis reflects Marxist ideals, or how the movement of the workers was admired by Hitler. In case anybody's wondering, I can now rattle off a whole bunch of film theorist analyses of this silent film that really bores the tears out of most contemporary audiences. Hopefully, Metropolis doesn't come up in conversation at a party. I'd be a total buzzkill. Maybe that's why I don't get invited to parties anymore.

Yes, the class will teach me a lot and yes, I will probably gain some sort of personal growth and blah blah blah. Too bad I will never be able to sit somebody down, show them Metropolis, and explain all of the nuances. Hell, the only reason I watched the film is because my film theory class completes my minor.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Screams from the Kitchen

(There is a "Far Side" that involves cooking a lobster and is much more pertinent to this post, but I couldn't find it on the net. But I do like this one--at least it involves seafood)

Quote of the Day: "Annie, there's a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can't get it out. This thing's heavy. Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side."
-Alvy Singer, Annie Hall

I've decided on our Valentine's Day dinner. We'd originally planned on an expensive restaurant, perhaps followed by a movie. No gifts, just lots of money spent on a meal. But we came to realize that we wanted to do something different. Well, I've never cooked a live lobster. Dinner will be at home this year.

I can't wait to bring the lobster home. I'm looking forward to my dachsund's reaction to the giant cockroach. That should be entertaining.

If you haven't already, check out David Foster Wallace's essay "Consider the Lobster," a wonderful piece on the cooking method of boiling the animal alive. I've heard they scream.

Hopefully, after hearing the screams, we don't decide that maybe lobsters for dinner might be a bad idea. Hopefully we won't say, a la Putty from Seinfeld, "Feels like an Arby's night."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pranks, Jokes, and Creative Writing

Quote of the Day: "Have you heard about the pygmy prostitute? A li'l fucker 'bout yea high."

-my grandfather

My grandfather is the most phenomenal joke-teller. Sitting in his little workshop, among the smell of freshly cut wood and cigarettes, he like to tell his grandchildren, no matter what age (anywhere between 1 and 40) his sometimes innocent, sometimes shockingly filthy jokes.

This question came up recently in my creative writing class: What made you want to write fiction? My answer: A love for joke telling inherited from my grandfather. Many of his jokes are long, detailed story jokes that only work if told right. If they are filthy, innocent, or otherwise, they won't get so much as a chuckle if not executed with the utmost care.

Writing fiction is similar. Your job is to tell a story delicately and uniquely for the desired effect. It takes lots of practice and thought, but the result is incredibly rewarding.

Pranks are the same way. When I was much younger, my cousins sent me on a snipe hunt. After a long while spent banging shovels on the ground and carrying a trash bag, trying to coax the snipes into my possession, I learned that they weren't real. I was pissed.

That didn't stop me from sending my brother on a snipe hunt the following year. The biggest reward is convincing your audience of something that isn't real.

Here's a short joke for today:

This guy is sitting in his living room, watching T.V. There's a knock at the door.

He answers the door to find a snail on the porch. Disgusted, he picks up the snail. "Get the hell outta here!" he says. Then he tosses the snail away and slams the door shut.

One year later, the same guy is sitting in his living room and watching the T.V. There's a knock a the door.

The guy answers the door to find the same snail sitting on his porch. The snail says, "What the fuck was that for?"

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Origins of Humanism

Quote of the Day: "I am a human being. I consider nothing human alien to me."

I wrote the following after the trip I took to Vegas for my twenty-first birthday:

Atop Las Vegas’s Stratosphere, over 100 stories above the Strip, I am reminded of Sandia Crest, towering over Albuquerque. From however many miles above sea level, Vegas—Sin City, chewing up lives and resources and ruthlessly spitting them out—is not all that different from my hometown, Albuquerque. Especially during the day—just a sun-scorched settlement randomly set in the middle of a brown desert wasteland. A small bustle of cars and people crammed into a tiny blackhead surrounded by…nothing.

Just a stop on your way out west. Perhaps stay for a few drinks and maybe some attempts at the slots. Even in Albuquerque we have our casinos, calling from the reservations on the outskirts of our city, our town that sits on historic 66. Most come and go, but some never leave either my town or Vegas, and those people never actually intended to stay in the first place.

Despite the tragic, black hole, suck-you-in, cheesy nature of these forsaken cities, they each have an odd beauty about them, mostly noticeable from high above. Or maybe I’ve just turned 21, and everything is beautiful at that point in my life, but I like to think that maybe there is something strangely exciting about realizing that our existence, our planet, is merely a grain of sand, a fleck of dust, wandering the cosmos.

The window panes are set at an angle, so one could look down towards the Strip.

“It makes me queasy,” I mention to Pat and Yvette, the married couple joining me on my weekend trip to Vegas. The sun shines through the glass and reflects off of Pat’s shaved head.

Yvette, with her surfer shorts and short, spiked, bleached blond hair, is the adventurous member of our trio. “Let’s go outside,” she suggests.

Being a large ball atop a relatively narrow stick, the Stratosphere creaks and moans in even the slightest breeze. It’s common, it’s supposed to do that, and we know this, but it is still quite unsettling to hear this structure creak, signifying a waver in stability. I just keep telling myself that the Stratosphere was built for this very reason, to thrill us as we stand 1,149 feet over Vegas. Still, the popping of my ears unnerved me on the elevator ride to the top.

More people are gathered outside, and the city spread around us is more visible in the open. A chest-high rail surrounds this balcony, followed by a chain-link fence set a few feet out from the rail, so you have not one, but two barriers to keep you from hurtling to your death. An accident is impossible, but if you really wanted two you could jump the rail and quickly climb the fence before anybody realized what you were doing. But what kind of asshole would do that to the pedestrians at the bottom?

For the ultimate Stratosphere experience, the world’s highest thrill rides are provided at the top. There is Insanity, a ride that hangs a group of people in seats at the of each person’s own individual rope. The seats spin in a circle.

I went on a similar ride at the New Mexico state fair, except the one in Albuquerque was not attached to a large arm protruding from the top of a Stratosphere, dangling the ride over 1,000 feet above the ground.

Then there’s the High Roller, a red rollercoaster that wraps around a spire at the top of the Stratosphere. And the spire is a part of the Big Shot, a ride that fires you up the spire and drops you back down.

My fear of heights made me choose to pass on the rides, including the X Scream. The Stratosphere’s website offers a description of this popular thrill ride:

At 866 feet, X Scream is the world's third highest thrill ride. Shaped like a giant teeter-totter, X Scream is an open vehicle that propels riders head-first, 27 feet over the edge of the Stratosphere Tower and dangles them weightlessly above the Strip before pulling it's riders back and over again for more!

I don’t know who in their right mind thinks this might be fun. But this ride, along with the other four, has its apparent appeal—an appeal that is lost on me. I have a feeling that the blonde on the X Scream no longer sees the appeal either.

She was maybe 30, and seated at the very back seat of the “giant teeter-totter.” The operators of the ride, two young men, each checked the safety bars, making sure they were firmly clamped on the riders’ laps. Then the operators chuckled and stepped off the ride.

Pat, Yvette, and I approached the ride to watch it in action. It began to move forward. Clack, clack, clack.

“Aaaaaaaagh!” the woman wailed. And the ride had not even yet dangled “them weightlessly above the strip.”

“OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGOD!” Tears were streaming down her face. Then there was that final clack and the ride quickly tipped forward so that its passengers were looking straight down at the strip.

“Waaaaaaaaahhhh!” I was laughing. Other bystanders were laughing. Even the guy at the very front of the X Scream was laughing.

But for the blonde, this was anything but funny. She was envisioning the ground coming at an alarming rate: faster, then faster, then faster, and then…concrete.

“Oh that poor thing,” Yvette said.

The X Scream propelled them and dangled them a few more times, before they shakily exited, the blonde weeping and barely able to walk.

Of course, that night she probably laughed about it over a few drinks that night. But it was obvious in her eyes that this was traumatizing. She had the glazed look of a victim.

The three of us went to the lounge, where drinks were surprisingly cheap (It did cost us ten bucks a head just to get to the top of the Stratosphere).

Just below us was the revolving restaurant, and ahead of us were the giant windows, and past them was Vegas, sprawled out in the Nevada desert. Vegas, in all its glory, all the money, the extravagant hotels, all of it—reduced to an anthill.

Each of of us completely insignificant. Except for that blonde on the X Scream who, through tragedy, realized her own importance. Through the nasty thought of imminent death she found importance. I wondered which of the ants was her. The queen ant. That sounds right.

I sipped my Harp Lager. We ordered two more rounds and sat in those plush leather chairs, pointing out Vegas hotspots, as if we were looking at a map, not the actual city. God it was gorgeous. When you’ve lived in a desert all your life you’ve need to look at it from a new angle to find its beauty.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dear Spiderman: Thanks for the Moves!

Quote of the Day: "Just once, I want to hear a black man say, 'Today I got on an elevator, and there was a Jew there, and I got really scared.'"
-Gilbert Gottfried

Kim works in a middle school. Yesterday, she came home looking completely flustered--it had obviously been a rough day. "Oh my God," she said, plopping down on the couch, "one of my students got fingered at school today. She's been expelled."

I just laughed. I remembered one of the scandals at my middle school being almost exactly the same thing. A girl got fingered in class. A male classmate simply reached over and slid his hand into her overalls and the rest is Hoover Middle School history. Apparently it's a common trend: 12- and 13-year-olds engaging in foreplay. At the time, I was still terrified of the opposite sex, so the whole situation totally blew my mind.

(By the way, ladies, I apologize for the use of "finger" as a verb in this post. But let's face it--that's how young men talk.)

Anyway, when I was in my early teens, I remember a classmate explaining his own method. He almost sounded scientific as he explained that one mustn't use their forefinger and middle finger, which is apparently a common mistake. "The rest of the hand gets in the way," he said. "You need to use these fingers." He wiggled his two middle fingers.

"Oh," I said, "like Spiderman."

After we graduated high school, this lively individual went on to permanently damage his brain with a heroin overdose. Also since graduation, I've had friends in and out of rehab, and two or three classmates have died, all in their later teens and early twenties. Others have become parents (I'm happy for them though) and some are, more than likely, in prison. In a way, all of this makes me yearn for those days of middle school, a time when vaginas scared the shit out of me, and the biggest scandal was a little classroom fingering.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Poor Taste and Television

Quote of the Day: "That was absolutely horrid."
-Simon Cowell

In celebration of American Idol, the wonderful phenomenon that promises evenings of spectacular entertainment (specifically, the auditions), here's a section of my short story, the one that focuses on a creator of a reality-T.V. show that revolves around five terminally ill people:

Soon, the Network got things rolling. We went from city to city, rounding up the terminally ill (“termies” or “termites” we’d begun calling them) and weeding out potential candidates for our show. After a while, we’d whittled it down to our five most compelling, the five people that would, in Bill’s words, “hopefully die in the next year or so.” We even did the American Idol thing—we aired the auditions. That wasn’t quite as entertaining as Idol. A bunch of dying individuals peering into a camera in their eerie, vacant way, asking, pleading for a chance to impress the world, to make their mark before God takes them away to a place without television, can be pretty depressing.

Somewhere in Seattle, I’d sat in a dirty motel room (the Network heads could be pretty cheap) watching our two-hour audition special through almost unbearable static when my ex-wife called. She was watching the show too.

"Haven’t heard from you for a while,” I drawled into my cell phone. I’d been drinking.

“What you’re doing is wrong,” Rita had snapped. Then she hung up. I haven’t spoken to her since.


Every week, we flew our five termies to some place in the U.S. for a group activity. One week it was Six Flags, another time it was New York City. After learning that Lisa really wanted to see Mount Rushmore, we flew them to South Dakota.

My favorite termite was Cherisse. She was very lively, especially for somebody that was dying. I stood and chatted with her by the railings at Rushmore’s base. In front of me was Dan, slumped over in his wheelchair, and in front of Cherisse was Randall in his wheelchair, peering at the huge stone faces of dead presidents. Further up the railings was Lisa, standing alone, apart from the frightened tourists, oblivious and in awe of the mountain. She appeared to be a little elderly person for the obvious reason, her visual appearance. But she also had a certain quiet restraint, making the only things childish about her the small stature and a bug-eyed, upward stare marked by a youthful sparkle of wonder. While Lisa stood staring at the carved mountain, Cherisse and I stared at Lisa. It hadn’t taken very long for everybody to get used to the cameras and to begin acting as normal human beings: They began to share emotions, stopped trying to always look so good (besides, most of them had no hair to style anyway, ha ha), and even allowed themselves to occasionally be rude.

“Lisa is so heartbreaking. I hate to say it, but she kind of freaks me out,” Cherisse confided in me, despite the small microphone affixed to the collar of her Berkeley sweatshirt. “She looks like a mini Ross Perot.”

“Cherisse,” I began to scold through a half sigh/ half stifled laugh. It was a funny comment, I thought, but not one that others would find all that hilarious. Luckily, I was in the shot, which meant it would probably be edited before the show aired, saving Cherisse’s reputation. Not that she would’ve cared. Like the others, she was dying anyway.

Gregory seemed to materialize out of nowhere, his gaunt frame engulfed in a giant coat, his small bald head making his black beanie look huge.

“Next week, we should hit up a casino somewhere, or a bar.” Gregory had become a bit of a downer.

“That would be fun, Gregory, but we can’t with Randall and Lisa.”

“Take them to a Mickey D’s or something.” I wished I could help him, that I could maybe bring him out of his eternal bleakness by taking them somewhere that he’d actually enjoy.

“Look, Gregory,” I said, matter-of-factly, “First of all, the last thing you need is some alcohol. Secondly, the Network wanted to put you all together every week so they’d have footage of some interaction—”

“Fuck the Network,” he interrupted. “They’re not dying.”

It took all my strength not to say You signed the contract, you Negative Nancy. If I were Bill, I would have said it without thinking twice. Speaking of Bill, this is when he pulled me aside, away from the cameras and the group of condemned T.V. stars.

“We’ve gotta talk,” he said. “privately.”

We made our way towards the restaurant—you know, the one on North by Northwest, where Cary Grant pretends to get shot. Anyway, Bill spoke as we walked.

“Listen, Jason, it’s been six months. Nobody’s died yet.” He fired up a cigarette.

I stopped walking. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Look, we promised people a competition.”

I didn’t promise that. Your buddies at the Network did.”

He took a drag and rolled his eyes. “Don’t give me that, your righteous B.S. We promised our audience that the last one alive would get one million donated to his or her charity, which would imply some sort of impending doom. Right now, everything’s all sunshine and roses. That’s not a good thing. Not for ratings.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Film Theory and Fishnet Stockings

Quote of the Day: "A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not."
-Roald Dahl

This semester I'm taking 18 credit hours, which is more than I'd ever taken, but I was feeling rather confident about my classes. That was until last night, when I went to my film theory class.

First of all, I don't even know what the hell "film theory" means, but the class completes my media arts minor so I figured I could learn something when I registered. My professor, a tall, slender blonde woman, entered the class wearing a grey wool skirt, a matching top, a black fur neck wrap, black heels, and fishnet stockings. The neck wrap and heels mader her already intimidating stature look even larger, and she left the wrap on for the entirety of the three and a half hour class. She talked in a quiet, steady, and very stern tone and emphasized just how difficult the class would be. She had these green eyes that were so light that they gave her this certain intensity that gave her a reptilian gaze, making one fear that she may strike at any minute. She looked like a darker, hotter version of Cruella Deville.

And all of this would have certainly been quite sexy if I wasn't relying on this femme fatale to give me a grade that would earn me my minor. So, as she dimmed the lights and turned on Metropolis, I sat in my plastic seat and quaked in the dark when she paced the room and surveyed her students, her victims, with that terrifying gaze. It's going to be a long semester.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Quote of the Day: "You could put walls around this place and call it an insane asylum."
-Seinfeld (the quote goes something like that, but maybe not exactly. It's the part that Jerry is talking about his parents apartment complex, Del Boca Vista)

Last night, I watched Jackass #2. This is one of those movies that one is ashamed to admit he saw and even more ashamed to admit that he laughed.

What can I say? It wasn't The Godfather, but it wasn't meant to be. Lots of pain, lots of sophomoric chuckling. What I find shocking is that, while Steve Irwin died in a freak encounter with a stingray, Steve-o can put a fish hook through his cheek and swim with a bunch of hammerheads and not even lose a limb.

What's really fun is to try to look deeper into these guys, which sounds impossible when you're dealing with a bunch of giggling, well, jackasses. But they have to be torn up and damaged inside, emotionally, that is, to engage in such self-destructive behavior. You want to take a hold of them and say, to quote Heathers, "what's your damage?!"

These guys are complete morons, but its fun watch them in their idiocy. Still, everything's fun and games until somebody gets killed. Honestly, was anybody all that surprised when Steve Irwin died in his his line of work?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eating Habits That Baffle Me (causing me to make fun of them)

Quote of the Day: "Where's the beef?"

I work with a vegetarian that I never skip an opportunity to torment. He's a skinny, lanky fellow that has probably never hurt anybody, but I'm too weak not to poke fun at him whenever he orders his employee meal. It doesn't help that I'm often the one to make his food.

Recently, when he ordered his meal, I put a huge tray of plain leaf lettuce in the expo window and told him his order was ready. Another time when he ordered a meal, another cook placed a raw hamburger patty in the window and said, "Order up!"

I learned that we also have a vegan working at the restaurant. She is a small, quiet person that I haven't had the chance to torture quite yet. Unfortunately, though we use pure canola oil in our fryers, she already knows that we fry everything, meats and all, alongside each other. So I guess I won't have the opportunity to give her an order of fries and wait until she finishes eating to say, "Ha! I fried that with some cod and breaded chicken!"

It's mean-spirited and even ignorant, which is something I need to work on, and I truly apologize to any vegetarians or vegans that might be reading this. But my actions are fairly tame compared to some of my coworkers who worked up the courage to ask the poor girl, "So, do vegans swallow?"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Stranger Than Fiction" Film Review

"This may sound like gibberish to you, but I think I'm in a tragedy."
-Harold Crick

Last night, we saw Stranger Than Fiction at the dollar theater. I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

The film focuses on Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who begins to hear his own life being narrator by some unfamiliar voice. Soon, the narration tells us, and Harold, of his "imminent death."

Come to find out, Harold is a character in a book-in-progress. The author of the book, and the owner of the voice, is popular writer Kay Eiffel. With the help of professor Jules Hilbert, Crick must find Eiffel before she writes the ending to her book, an ending that would certainly mean Crick's demise.

Faced with death, Crick breaks from routine to pursue guitar playing and a love interest, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. This odd match would usually be hard to swallow, but these two actors had me convinced.

Coming from Monster's Ball director Marc Forster, it is no surprise that this film has a preoccupation with death. I've never seen such a light-hearted film with such dark subject matter. Forster manages to find a very delicate balance, and it works marvelously.

Crick is played with shocking restraint by funny man Will Farrell. This performance is quite a surprise coming from such a rambunctious actor, and it is quite a revelation. This is such a different role for Farrell, and yet I can't imagine anybody else playing Crick with such subtle effectiveness. In other words, Farrell blew me away. He even outdoes respected veteran actress Emma Thompson.

Thompson's performance (and I would've expected this from Farrell) is rather overdone. She hams it up a bit to play the author with writer's block. She was not a disappointment, and I enjoyed her character, but she could have toned it down a bit. I would've preferred a bit more restraint. Still, I respect Thompson, and her character's obsessive search for an appropriate way to kill off a character is a joy, as is her later fear that she could be killing Crick or, even worse, she may have already killed off characters in her former, death-obsessed novels.

The always-wonderful Dustin Hoffman plays Professor Hilbert, and nobody plays quirkiness better. Hilbert a literature scholar, caffeine addict, and the faculty lifeguard, and he is a delight in every scene he's in.

Like Adaptation, Stranger Than Fiction has one of those hyper-clever, "I wish I'd thought of that"-type plots. But it doesn't just rely on cleverness--there is a very real sense of depth to this film, with it's existential themes and it's lessons in living as one sees fit. Also, having taken several creative writing classes, I found myself giggling at Eiffel's dilemmas. I was reminded of numerous lectures from my instructor last semester that involved a tendency for writers to kill off their characters. Those out there who happen to be writers (so anybody with a Blogger account) really should see this film. You'll be able to enjoy it even more with that extra level of depth from understanding Eiffel's plight.

Friday, January 19, 2007

That Picture Looks Like I Just Woke Up; or, I Couldn't Think of a Title for This Post

Quote of the Day: "Since you have no choice but to begin in uncertainty, you must learn to tolerate uncertainty and, if possible, to turn it into excitement."
-Stephen Koch

For school credit this semester I will be working on the Blue Mesa Review, a literary magazine. This, I can imagine, will be quite the experience. I will be working in the fiction department, and today I was given a whole stack of manuscripts to divide into "no's" and "maybe's."

This has really put things into perspective. I was given last year's issue for comparison purposes. So far, I've only read three or four of the manuscripts, and some of the writing was, well, no better than some of my own short stories at home. It was only three stories, but none of it was on par with the published work.

While I say that it was no better then some of my own stories, I'm not saying that my work is better. One of these days, I'll be sending work off to literary magazines, and somebody, just as I did today, will look at my writing and place it in the "no" pile without second thought. It's humbling to read published stories and know that there is a ton of work I need to do to even work my way up to a "maybe."

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the writer's life that hopefully lay ahead of me will probably be a thankless one. One full of pain, full of the disappointment of knowing that I thought I had something publishable but editors thought otherwise.

Then again, I have the fleeting joy of knowing that there's a short story lurking in the "fiction" folder on my computer desktop, a piece waiting for some nourishment, waiting for me to go back to it and maybe one day be transformed into a bona fide finished product.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From my CD Collection

Quote of the Day: "He freely gave to charity/ And had that common touch/ They were grateful for his patronage/ And thanked him very much/ So my mind was filled with wonder/ When the evenin' headlines read/ That Richard Cory went home last night/ And put a bullet through his head."

-"Richard Cory"
There are certain aspects of this world that we all know and have adopted as universal truths. For example, we know that the earth is flat. We also know that sodium and chloride combine to make salt. And, of course, one of my favorite universal truths: Everybody loves Van Morrison. Nobody can honestly say that they don't enjoy "Brown Eye Girl." It's physically impossible, just like falling off the edge of the earth.

My favorite work of his comes from his first band Them. It was with Them that Morrison originally recorded the classic "Gloria." Them also recorded a fantastic version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (Their version of the song was later sampled in the Beck song "Jackass" on the very likeable album Odelay).

Them does not have a very wide catalogue of music, which means that everything they've recorded can be found on the 2-disc Them anthology The Story of Them. The charm of this bands music comes from the fact that, as artists, it is fairly apparent that they do not take themselves quite seriously. They have a garage band feel to their music (albeit, an excellent garage band). Of course, Van Morrison went on to become a huge success with "Brown Eye Girl," but I recommend checking him out as a real rocker. The Story of Them is a fine, affordable anthology and one of the best jam CD's I have. It's up there with The Who Live at Leeds and the Rolling Stones and Ry Cooder's Jamming With Edward, another fun album worth picking up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back to School

Quote of the Day: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I began a new semester. So far, I've never attempted 18 hours (my max has been 16), but this semester I'm hoping to avoid summer school by cramming in everything that I need to graduate by next semester.

At least my classes are cool: I've got Women of the Bible, a class that focuses on the literary characters that have never been given their due. I'm also taking Roman Drama, which just sounds cool because we all know Greek drama, but not nearly as much of the hopefully equally-enriching Roman stuff. Of course, I'm taking my highly-anticipated fiction writing class, as well as an editing course that allows me to work on a literary magazine. Um, lessee, what am I missing? Oh, film theory and, just for kicks, Fundamentals of Human Sexuality.

So, I'm in for a lot of work, but it all sounds pretty fun (Dude, Fundamentals of Human Sexuality!) Never have I been so excited for a health class.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rockin' in the Free World

Quote of the Day: "You didn't bet on the Dodgers to beat the Giants/ And David came up,/
Now you gotta pay up/ You didn't count on that."
-Neil Young, "Bandit"

A couple of years ago, Neil Young came to Albuquerque during his "Greendale" tour. My family and I went to the show, and it was probably the most unique rock concert I'd ever encountered.

"Greendale" is a fascinating concept album that focuses on the fictional town of Greendale, a town of "about 20 to 25,000 people." Throughout the album, recorded with Crazy Horse, Young takes us on a journey through the town and we visit Greendale's inhabitants and are allowed to witness their trials and tribulations. It's fun, it's thought-provoking, and it rocks. It maintains that hippie spirit, the almost overly idealistic but unapologetically pro-peace and anti-injustice lyrics such as "We've got to save Mother Earth!" and songs about the summer of love. It could come off sounding so corny, but Neil Young makes it work. Even if it didn't, who cares? It's Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and some of us are rather inspired by his idealism. I couldn't stop the war on Iraq, but I'll always make it clear that it is a battle that I can't stand it, and like Neil Young, I'll revel in my dissent (By the way, check out Erik's Choice for a wonderful post entitled "Louder Than Bombs" that addresses the country's contemporary burgeoning revolutionary spirit).

For the concert, Young performed the album in it's entirety, and the stage was set up as if it were a play. There were Greendale stores and homes as well as actors playing the characters Young introduces in the album. It was pretty cool, albeit quite unexpected.

My family and I allowed ourselves to get absorbed into the show. We stood, we clapped, we cheered. Lots of the audience, however, were inexplicably angry. "Southern Man!" they'd shout, as if Young was taking requests, as if he could actually hear them, crying out from the nosebleeds.

Neil Young's worn face and "I owe you nothing" attitude makes it clear that this man has a story to tell, and how he chooses to tell this story is up to him. We go to concerts for the surprises, for stories to tell our friends. If Young had given a typical concert, this post would simply read, "He played the hits. It was cool."

Recently, Young had an aneurysm, followed by brain surgery. What did he do afterwards? He recorded another album. This man is tough as nails. Ever seen Scorcese's The Last Waltz, where a wild-eyed Young gives a killer performance of "Helpless" with a roach clip hanging from his shoulder and a pebble of coke in his nostril? This man can do what he wants.

After the performance of the "Greendale" album, Young and Crazy Horse followed up with an encore that included the hits, including the always timely "Rockin' in the Free World." There's no way he did this for us, the undeserving audience. His lively, emotional performance was for himself. He owed us nothing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

More Scrabble

Quote of the Day: "As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden/ The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines/I was passing by yon cool and crystal fountain/
Someone hit me from behind"
-Bob Dylan, "Ain't Talkin'"

It turns out that the Scrabble dictionary now includes the words "blog" and "webcast." In this dictionary you can also find the different variations of blog: blogger, blogging, blogginator (OK, I made this one up).

Anyway, I wasn't all that surprised, considering that Webster now includes the Simpsons-inspired "d'oh." Plus, I use the word "blog" on a daily basis. My parents, on the other hand, were shocked. I'm sensing a generation gap.

It's strange to think that, a few months ago, before I began this blog, I still wasn't sure what a "blog" was. I'd come across those silly myspace bulletins where people would say "read my blog!!!," then they'd post something about how blue they felt or about how their dachsund won't eat its dry dog food.

Then I actually got involved in this Blogger thing and later learned that "blog" is a shortened version of "web log." At least, I think that's what it is.

So, Scrabble took a very old concept--crossword puzzles--and combined it with another old concept--board games--and after so many years has updated by merely updating it's vocabulary. Now I know what to do with this B, L, and G. All I need to do is find an open O.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I'm the type of dog owner you hate

Quote of the Day: "When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere." Sal Robeson in Pi

A couple of months ago, we switched from canned to dry dog food. This week, we ran out of canned and had to switch to our leftover dry food, which my dachsund, though it was perfectly acceptable before we switched to canned, refused to eat.

The other night, she was so hungry that she laid on her back and moaned until we fed her some ham. Finally, we gave in and bought her a couple of cans of 'Ol Roy.

Unfortunately, 'Ol Roy is not her regular canned food. She timidly sniffed at the food and hesitantly gnawed at a chunk before she finally turned up her nose at the muck. I considered waiting until she got starved enough that she absolutely had to eat the dry stuff, but I'm not that strong. We got her the food she likes.

If I have kids and they get this spoiled, I'm giving them to the pound.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dirty Jokes and Dentistry

Quote of the Day: "Please allow me to introduce myself/
I'm a man of wealth and taste."
-"Sympathy for the Devil (I've recently decided that the quotes I include on my posts don't always have to be related to the post itself. Call me lazy. So from now on I'll just include a quote that I personally find appealing, followed by a post that may or may not have anything to do with the quote. The following post is about orthodontia and pedophilia. Enjoy. -Simon)

Today I cleaned out my coat pocket--nothing but candy wrappers. That is my weakness: chocolate. It is my Kryptonite, my biggest craving, which is probably why I required dental repair, despite brushing my teeth on a regular basis, when I was in middle school.
I had a pretty bad cavity that required a root canal, a filling, and my gold onlay. My dentist happens to be my uncle, which isn't always good, especially when your uncle likes to tell dirty jokes. Nothing is more sadistic than making one laugh while you have a drill in their tooth.

"Hey, little boy," he cackled, " let's see what we have here." Then he clamped open my mouth, looked inside, and joked, "So, little boy, did I tell you I once planned on becoming a priest?"

So let's review the creepy combination of the following factors:

1. It's a trip to the dentist (which is creepy enough),
2. You need a root canal,
3. and your dentist, who happens to be your uncle, is emphasizing your young age and joking about pedophilia in the Catholic church while shoving a drill in your mouth.

What can I say? Ya gotta love family. Plus, he's one of the best dentists in town. I now have an awesome gold onlay on my molar. That's my bling. It has never fallen fallen off, and the filling has never come loose. I have most confidence in that one tooth, the one that is made up of several artificial materials.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


"Blame it on Cain./ Don't blame it on me./ Oh, oh, it's nobody's fault,/ but we need somebody to burn."

-Elvis Costello, "Blame it on Cain"

I've decided to take my idea for a reality show that focuses on terminally ill people and incorporate it into a very dark short story in which network greed gets in the way of the protagonists good intentions. The network has decided to make the show into a competition, and whoever is the last one standing is the winner. It's pretty disgusting. So far, I've only introduced the characters and their afflictions, but here's what I have:


They’d all been gathered in the meeting room. Sitting in the chairs surrounding one long conference table were five terminally ill people chosen to be on the show.

At the far end of the table was 9-year-old Lucy Stang, the little girl with progeria, the premature aging disease. She had thin white hair that was so fair it looked like strands of light atop her undersized head. Her wrinkled face came to a point at her chin, making her head look like an upside-down teardrop.

Beside her was another youngster, 11-year-old Randall Sanders, a boy with acute myeloid leukemia. He was bald and already walked with a cane, which he’d left hanging from the back of his chair.

I’d spoken numerous times to the parents of both children, parents who had confided in me that there was no hope for their children, that the only treatment for Randall was intended only to keep the cancer from spreading, and that little Lucy, that poor wrinkled little thing, would be lucky to make it to 13, the average for kids with progeria.

Next to Randall was Dan Neuberger. He was 98 years old and he too hung a cane from the back of his chair. He had more of his white hair than Lucy, but his age had withered his body to less than both of the children beside him. Old age was his terminal disease. It was a controversial choice, one I struggled with before finally deciding that Dan’s great-granddaughter was right, old age is about as terminal as disease can be. Dan began to nod off as soon as Bill began his speech.

When I’d taken my seat at the end of the table, beside Dan, I noticed that he smelled faintly of canned ham and ammonia. Standing behind me, Bill gave his spiel. He was a harsh, unshaven man with a large belly shrink-wrapped within his starched white shirt. Dark chest hair poked from above the top button of his shirt.

“You’ll all have a camera crew placed in your homes,” he said. “We’d considered putting you all in one house, like Big Brother or The Real World, but we figured that you would get the proper care in your own home.” He chuckled and smacked my shoulder. “That would’ve been plain stupid on our part.”

Across from me, sitting behind her box of Kleenex, Cherisse Clemens, the 25-year-old brunette with cystic fibrosis, asked, “Will there be competitions? Like Survivor or America’s Next Top Model?”

Bill began to circle the table. He looked at nobody as he spoke. “We’d considered that too, but our advisors in the medical field warned us against that. All of you have ‘compromised immune systems.’ Besides, each and every one of you have wildly different situations. It wouldn’t even be fair.”

Cherisse wiped her nose and discretely tossed the tissue in the waste bucket beside her. “So you’re just going to film us at home?”

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Bill said.

“Just wait for us to croak.” The bald 42-year-old, Gregory Pitt beside Cherisse had spoken. He had an inoperable tumor the size of a small plum resting atop his pituitary gland. His skin was grey from the chemo, and his sweater hung from him like drapes. My guess was that the sweater had fit him perfectly before the chemo. Judging from the size of the sweater, Gregory was once Bill’s size.

There was an extra chair next to Gregory, one I’d specifically put out for Bill, though I knew he wouldn’t use it. I hated how he’d always do this, at all of our meetings, even when we’d met at our homes—he never sat. Because of his constant standing, he was an obtrusive presence with all the personality of a diaper.

“Well Jason,” he asked, “you wanna take it from here?” It was about time. These people needed a sympathetic voice. I stood.

“First, I want to thank you all for being a part of this.” I clasped my hands together and smiled with the most sincere smile I could possibly muster. “With this show, we are going to make history.”

“Neat,” Lisa said in her tiny voice. I placed my hand on her bony shoulder. When I did, I noticed her little hand resting on the table, the fingers twisted and mangled from arthritis.

Bill was still standing, making me nervous. “It’s very neat, Lisa,” I stuttered, trying to ignore Bill.

“Are the cameras allowed in the home?” Dan spoke in his aged voice. I wondered when he’d awoken.

“Yes, Dan, arrangements have already been made with Sunview Acres. They are quite excited, actually, to have a show filmed in the nursing home. Plus, we’ve made some very generous donations to Sunview. Your friends at the home will be living pretty good because of your choice to show America just what it’s like to be in your shoes.”

Cherisse wiped her nose, sighed, and asked, “So, what’s the point of this show?

“Not to die,” Bill answered.

The One That Got Away

"crawlin on her belly shakin like jelly
and I'm getting harder than
Chinese algebraziers and cheers
from the compendium here
hey sweet heart they're yellin for more
squashing out your cigarette butts
on the floor."
-Tom Waits, "Pasties and a G-String"

When I'd first begun college, my older brother took me out for my first, and only, trip to a strip club. It was a slow Tuesday night at the Ice House, and the few patrons yelled and cheered at the bored-looking, skinny strippers beneath the black lights.

At the hosts' table, my brother pulled out a twenty and asked for a pile of ones. The host smiled deviously and said, "Sorry, we only have two-dollar bills."

"Very smart," my brother said. He traded in his twenty for the pile of twos and we took our seat around the stage.

"So what do I do?" I asked.

My brother handed me a small pile of bills and then waved one of his own bills in the air. "Just show them that you have money. They'll come over here."

I timidly held up a two-dollar bill. I could not seem to find my comfort zone, couldn't seem to embrace the strip club ambience, even for just one night. The rail-thin stripper strolled over in her high-heels, g-string and nothing more. She squatted down before me, waved her breasts in my face, and began to gyrate. She chewed her gum and didn't even make eye contact with me and she had that look of eternal boredom. I blushed and gingerly tucked the bill in her underwear, then I wondered if she enjoyed her job.

I leaned back and surveyed the other patrons. All men, all eager to give the strippers their bills, all panting and cheering and totally unembarrassed to be there. I, on the other hand, was uncomfortable and totally out of place. I leaned back in my chair with a fake smile plastered on my face as I tried maintain the appearance of calmness and peace with my surrounding, but I know that my faux comfort I wasn't fooling anybody.

Since I also knew that this would probably be one of the only times I'd ever set foot in a strip club, I decided to make the most of it. I bought a lap dance.

One of the girls had come to our table and made small talk with my brother and me. She sat beside me and sipped on her drink. There I was, sitting at our table next to this topless 19-year-old in a green thong, as if I was on a very, very strange date. That's what it felt like, a date, a date that both of us had been suckered into by friends who had set us up. I didn't know if I was supposed to buy her a drink, if I was to ask about her line of work, or if I was supposed to complement her clothing. What clothing was I supposed to complement? "Hey, nice thong. Cool tassles."

Finally, after lots of awkward conversation, she asked, "Wanna lapdance?"

I shrugged. "Sure."

She wasn't quite as thin as the girl on stage, but she was skinny nonetheless, and just as bored. In her bright green thong, high heels, and nothing more, she took me to the back room, where she instructed me to sit on a plush couch.

She grinded against me, and as she waved her bottom in my face she said, in her jaded way, "You don't come to these places very often, do you?"

My voice cracked like a 13-year-old's when I replied, "No." Her statement made me feel slightly more comfortable, though. At least it was apparent that I was not in strip clubs all that often. But why did this make me more comfortable? She was a stripper at her workplace, not my date. Did I feel that she'd be impressed with my not being a strip club regular? Why would she even care?

After the lapdance, I tipped her generously and wondered if I was supposed to thank her, the same way one wonders what they are supposed to say after sex. "Um, thanks," I said and made my way back to the table. Our date was drawing to a close.

Eventually my brother and I left, and the girl in the green thong waved goodbye. I waved back, feeling like an ass, knowing that there would be no call the next day, no goodnight kiss, not even a goodbye hug from my date. Just a wave before she climbed upon the stage and twirled around a pole.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chomper and Donkey

"'Only the nutcase thinks life is hard. Hard? It's softer than silk pajamas.'
'My life is hard.'
'Oh? Then you're the one don't mind dying.'
'Yes. Yes I do.'
'There you go then.'"
-Stanley Elkin, The Magic Kingdom

On Lucas Pederson's blog he has started a story and invited anybody to change it, tweak it, or add to it. I've added to the piece. Where the font changes is where I've begun my own addition.

For another version of the story, see also Stewart Sternberg's blog.

Chomper and Donkey
The dog emerged from the shadows, its muzzle wet and dripping with a dark liquid Donkey cared not to look at. Chomper had killed again, the mangy mutt. But Donkey knew if he said anything Chomper would definitely be angry. And what then? Would Chomper eat Donkey too? Donkey shuddered at the thought. Chomper could be a real prick when he wanted to be, Donkey had the bite marks to prove it. Not to mention his missing tail too. Chomper trotted over, grinning, blood spattering the sidewalk.

"Got'em, Donk. Good eats all aroun'." Said Chomper as he came to a stop before Donkey.

"Good fa you Chompa." Donkey said, hoping his smile was at least partially convincing.

It must have been because Chomper nodded and turned to look back at the small house he had just finished dinning in.

"Damn good eats, Donk. The man tried to trick me but I gotts him b'for he could so much as wiggle that steak at me. Dumb human."

"We betta get a move along, Chompa. Don' wanna be 'round when more humans show up." Donk said, his voice soft.

"Yeah." Chomper said and began padding down the sidewalk.

Donk followed behind Chomper, his heart trip-hammering in his furry chest. He should've never gotten hooked up with Chomper to begin with. Chomper was mean, evil almost. The mutt loved
to kill people, something whick Donk didn't much like at all. Donk was a simple, usually kind hearted animal, if not a little odd looking. He knew he was ugly, but that didn't mean he was a bad a guy, did it? No. Of course it didn't. Donk just had no other friends anymore. Chomper was the only friend left, and Chomper had made damn sure of it too. Donk was a prisoner here. Chomper was the warden, and executioner. If Donk tried to leave, Chomper would kill him sure as shit out of a cows' bum.

Still, it was Donk that had chosen Chomper as a companion, that had found a twisted protector in Chomper. It was Donk, though he hated to admit it, that had a certain admiration for Chomper's predatory nature. It was Donk that, despite only faintly realizing it, sometimes wished he was more vicious, more fear inducing, more of a charming villian like his canine friend, rather than the braying klutz that Donk knew he was.

Chomper stopped to sniff at a rotting skunk beside the dirt road. "I used to eat this," he said. "Can you believe that?" He sniffed a while longer as Donk stared at Chomper's mangy, patchy fur. He was an ugly dog, not as ugly as Donk, but ugly nonetheless, but he still had that appeal. He still had that certain "thing" that attracted those to him, unless they were human. The humans immediately knew that something was wrong with Chomper, that he was not something you throw a stick for and wait for him to return. But the bitches, they could never seem to say no to Chomper, probably out of total fear. There was the poodle that Chomper spent an entire evening berating, a whiny thing whose owner, a fat city lady with a silly beehive hairdo, had been killed by Chomper. All night long, the poodle sat in the barn where Chomper had lead her and she whined, mourning her newly dead owner as Chomper licked the blood from his paws. But, even knowing that Chomper had eaten her lady master, the stupid poodle kept trying to get comfort from Chomper rather than ugly Donk. She whined to Chomper and pawed at him, and he seemed to grow more and more irritated.

"Shut up," he commanded, over and over, until he snapped at her ear, making her bleed. Finally she shut up. All evening he tormented her with his words, his comments as harsh as his behavior. He nipped and snapped and growled until the puffy white poodle, a creature even more pathetic than Donk, was as submissive as could be. The entire time Chomper continually looked over to Donk and smiled his evil way, and he continued to wink and smirk as he and the poodle got stuck together. Afterwards, Chomper wrapped his jaws around the poodle's neck and shook her until she was still. She never fought back.

Watching Chomper at the dead skunk, Donk remembered living on the countryside, his human master whipping him to no end. His master called him stubborn, but Donk was only stupid. You can fix stubborn, but not stupid. Donk remembered braying senselessly and not understanding the human commands, and his master had whipped and beat him bloody until that day that Chomper chewed off the master's face. Donk was frightened of Chomper, for he'd never seen such brutality, such a hunger to kill, but Donk had no sympathy for his master, and he hated himself for this. He hated that the poodle had not gone to him for some reassurance, and he hated Chomper.

He began to make his way to the Chomper and the skunk, his awkward hooves clomping beneath him. Chomper didn't notice, for he'd chosen to gnaw on the skunk. He looked rather disgusted. Donk wondered if the rotting meat disgusted Chomper, or if it was the fact that the skunk had died before Chomper could kill it.

Donk tried to be swift, tried to be fueled by his heart full of angry hatred as he wrapped his large, square teeth around Chomper's flea-ridden back. He heard something crack, but whatever had broken did not slow Chomper down, and he was much faster than Donk. Chomper tore into Donk's knobby knee, causing Donk to collapse. Chomper ripped into Donk's neck, his chest, his face.

Though Donk lay bleeding and in severe pain as the mutt chewed at his torso, he still noticed that Chomper was not actually eating. He was only working on Donk for the kill. Chomper always ate his victims, even if just a little, always saved a taste for himself. Apparently not with Donk. Even a rotting skunk must've had a better taste than ugly Donk. Or maybe Chomper actually felt remorse.

Chomper's jaws had ripped away one of Donk's eyes, but with the remaining, dying eye, Donk watched Chomper grip the flesh from his abdomen and furiously shake. But there was no swallowing. Just biting, chewing, shredding and shaking.

Chomper left Donk in the dust, dirt drying in his bloodied, wiry hair, and as Donk slipped away, he watched Chomper shuffle down the dirt road, hurt, alone, a mangy mutt, blood caked in his paws, with something broken inside of him, and for first the first time ever, Donk felt victorious, a sense of accomplishment, a sense that he'd done something right, done something that, though he was dying, (sure, he'd lost in that sense), he'd still somehow won.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Hermaphrodite Next Door

"Strange eyes fill strange rooms."
-The Doors, "Strange Days"

I'm going to try once again to post about the hermaphrodite from my old neighborhood. Hopefully this time I won't stray from the draft and lose it like I did last time.

Anyway, my old neighborhood was the area surrounding UNM, a neighborhood lovingly referred to as the "student ghetto," an area comprised of older, smaller houses and makeshift apartments. My own apartment was a tiny box shoddily attached to the back of a house. I shared the backyard with Curt, the man that rented out the house, and two other people that live in two more apartments surrounding the yard. Strangely enough, Curt, a bearded carpenter with dark curly hair, looked very much like Jesus. But this post isn't about Curt, it's about Greg, the hermaphrodite that eventually moved in next door, along with his schizophrenic wife.

This neighborhood seemed so strange at times that sometimes it felt like some kind of cosmic practical joke. This feeling, the idea that the joke's on me, intensified when Curt befriended the hermaphrodite, and I'd leave the house to find Greg in the driveway, with his frizzy bangs, his tie-dyed muscle shirt, his apron and a tool belt. He'd often be working on Curt's car or inviting himself over to use my grill in the backyard, whether or not Curt was with him. Once, I found him wining and dining an entire family on my back porch, and I wondered just how he got the impression that he could wander into my backyard whenever he wanted. Greg had his own backyard, overgrown with weeds, so I guess he preferred mine, which I kept looking quite pleasing. Still, I'm a generous guy, but I have to draw the line somewhere. All the time spent in my backyard he could have used to clean up his own.

Quite often, I heard yelling from next door, fights that Greg said resulted from his wife's extreme case of paranoid schizophrenia. These fights usually ended with police cars at the curb and Greg in tears.

Anyway, Greg often wore sandals, showing off his pedicured toenails, usually painted silver, but other than that he seemed all male, with his large build, his wide shoulders, and his deep voice. But I learned much more about him when my father visited me and ended up joining Greg for drinks on my porch. After a vodka tonic, Greg volunteered far more information than I would ever ask for.

"Most hermaphrodites are mostly one gender and just a bit of the other," he explained, "but the ones like me are very rare. I'm 50/50, half male half female." He went on to tell us that he cries often, that it hurts him to shave his face. But it didn't end there.

"God has blessed hermaphrodites with an extra gift," he said. According to Greg, God had given him psychic powers. "I've even had police approach me to help solve crimes," he said.

It gets even more strange, so off the wall that I looked around my backyard, waiting for the crew from Candid Camera to jump out and laugh at me. Instead, Greg stood up and went on. He pointed to his chest. "I've even got breasts."

To me, they only looked like pecs beneath his tight muscle shirt, but when he gently tapped the bottom of these pecs with the tips of his fingers, they jiggled. Greg had real boobs.

"This one time," he continued, "this woman and I were getting intimate. So she started suckin' on my nipples and whatnot, and then she got something wet on her lips. I was lactating." He sipped his vodka tonic. "Yep, I lactate."

It was then that I sensed God's presence. I think he looked directly at me from the clouds, and I almost felt a rumble as God laughed heartily and said, "Gotcha."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Choose Your Idol

"Little sister, don't you/
Do what your big sister done."
-"Little Sister"

I always write my blog before I upload the picture. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have found this blasphemous illustration on the web. It just fit so perfectly.

Today, I asked my manager if we could close the restaurant early for Elvis's birthday.

"We closed to celebrate the birth of Christ," I explained.

He rolled his eyes. "Completely different thing," he said.

I still think I had a valid point. Most people I know have a better knowledge of Presley's songs than the New Testament. Plus, Jesus and Elvis led very similar lives. Both had legions of loyal followers and enemies. Both became more and more appreciated after their time, and both of them had very public deaths. I think many people are more aware of the day Elvis died rather than his birthday.

So they lived thousands of years apart, and so what if "All Shook Up" isn't a Bible verse, but I like to think that I had an OK argument. Or did I just not feel like being at work today?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Not the Hermaphrodite Post

"The first draft of everything is shit."
-Ernest Hemingway

Earlier today, I'd written a fantastic post about a hermaphrodite that moved into my old neighborhood. I'd spent far more time on that post than I usually do, and I was quite happy with what I'd written.

Then I went to Google.com. Went I realized what I'd done, I pressed the "back" button, only to find that I'd lost everything I'd typed. Dammit, it was a good post too.

It makes me feel better to remember that Hemingway once lost a satchel full of drafts, stories, and various other works in progress. Apparently, his wife at the time had left the satchel on a train, which helps to explain the misogyny in his work that is so apparent to today's readers.

I wonder how Hemingway would handle today's writing world. Would he keep a blog? Would he save frequently throughout his work? If he did keep a blog, would he write out something that brought him great pride, then foolishly go to Google without saving his draft?

Recently, my computer crashed, and I smacked myself for not keeping backup disks of my work. When the computer was returned by Toshiba, I was thrilled to find that I hadn't lost any of my work.

That doesn't bring back my hermaphrodite piece, however, and I will have to write an entirely new draft. Oh well. The first draft of everything is shit, right?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Simon vs. Wild

"Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, "I'm going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough. I am going to snow anyway."

-Maya Angelou

For a while there, I'd been only watching TV in moderation, The Sopranos being my only television obsession. Lately, though, things have changed, and I haven't turned off the tube for a week straight. Today, I discovered yet another show that could quickly become yet another obsession: Man Vs. Wild.

Today, I learned what I would have to know if I ever got stranded on a Pacific island. I was shown Polynesian techniques in building sails, using coconuts as sunblock, and using fire to take town bamboo stalks. It was so cool how the man tied together the stalks with hibiscus fibers to make raft that it almost made me want to become a castaway.

Not that I'd ever make it. I'd certainly starve. Kim and I got my mother's CR-V stranded beside the road in southern Colorado, and we began to panic immediately. We decided to eat a leftover slice of cheesecake after about 15 minutes, and grew even more panicked when we realized that we did not have any silverware. Shivering and frightened, we ate the dessert with a Gatorade lid. We tried again to leave, but the tires only spun uselessly in the snow and mud, as we'd feared. Soon, we began discussing through shaky sobs which one of us would have to be sacrificed in order to feed the other, as if we'd crashed in the Andes. Luckily, a kind man found us and pulled us from the ravine with his truck.

I like to think that I could make it on an island all alone, just me and my wits. But we've got Hi-Def now, along with a heater and a swamp cooler. If I really want to rough it, I'll make a cheesecake and buy some Gatorade, and hope that one day, if my plane crashes on an island, I'll remember that one episode of Man Vs. Wild where the guy showed me how to climb a coconut tree.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Coffee Detox

"Way too much coffee. But if it weren't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever."
-David Letterman

For the first time in almost ten years, I've cut down on my coffee intake. I'd been drinking coffee, black, since the sixth grade and I'd steadily increased my intake until college began, when the amount of coffee I was drinking reached a sharp incline. Then, a little over a year ago, I started my job as a cook at a coffee shop, where I began drinking so much that I was shaking like a chihuahua by 7 a.m., and the shaking would continue until about 8:00 p.m., when I would start to "come down" (a term familiar to cocaine users) and, finally, fall asleep until the next morning's caffeine binge. I even named my dachsund "Coffee." I think my family almost called an intervention. If I were to graph my coffee intake over the years, it would look like the figure below.

Oddly enough, the decrease in my coffee intake was a direct result of my receiving a new programmable coffee maker. The problem before this coffee maker was that I didn't have time to make myself some coffee at 4:30 a.m., before I would head to work. When I would get to work, regular coffee wasn't made until close to 6 a.m. Unfortunately, at that time, I am a vegetable until I get caffeine coursing through my veins. Luckily, the espresso machine at work is ready for immediate use. It's too easy to use, and one of the cashiers was irresponsible enough to show me how it works. So, for a while there I was starting my mornings with anywhere between 4-12 shots of espresso, followed by a cup of coffee and, when the sun would come up, a glass of iced tea.

This new coffee maker will begin it's brew cycle for the time I set it. I awake at 4:30 in the morning, so I've programmed the coffee maker to start brewing at 4:15. The sound of the grinder is sort of my snooze alarm. By the time I get to work, I've had a much more subtle 3-4 cups of coffee rather than my pint of espresso. Unfortunately, that doesn't change that my excessive coffee drinking throughout middle school is what probably stunted my growth.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


"It's no use reminding yourself daily that you are mortal: it will be brought home to you soon enough."
-Albert Camus

My countless hours of T.V. this week has gotten me thinking about ways in which to make a reality T.V. show that actually means something.

Ever since "The Real World" got this reality T.V. ball rolling, we've been watching the same basic format: The network places several incredibly vain human beings in one house or on an island and pits them against each other.

What these shows are lacking is this: there is really no sense of humanity. The competitors, though they weep and wail, are in no real danger. Would the network really risk killing somebody? They just choose very dramatic people that make mountains out of molehills in order to make things seem worse than they really are. I watched an episode of America's Next Top Model yesterday in which a competitor threw a fit because she could not room with her new friend. Big deal.

Anyway, we know that a television show would never actually put a life on the line. But what if those in front of the camera were already doomed?

My idea for a far more compelling reality T.V. show is to take the cameras and crew and follow a terminally ill person who is willing to broadcast themselves on national television for the remainder of their lives following the diagnosis. A substantial portion of the show's proceeds would be donated to a charity concerned with the person's disease.

So, somebody is diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. He or she chooses to be the subject of this show, and we watch them deteriorate before our eyes. When he or she ends, the season ends, and then the show ends (or chooses another terminally ill person).

It's a brilliant idea, and I trust those reading this post not to steal this idea and run with it (seriously, if my show gets on T.V. without my knowledge, I'll hunt you down. You can consider yourself an acceptable subject for this morbid show).

Of course, this could be considered capitalizing on a very sore spot, but the subject of the show, whomever they happen to be, would be instantly loved by television viewers. Right now, we are watching shows in which the subjects are so lame that we can't relate and therefore we despise them. But how can we not sympathize with one on an undeserved death sentence?

It's brilliantly dark, and strangely uplifting. Still, there is something so sinister about this concept that I'm not sure I could see myself actually pitching this to a network. Not yet, anyway. I dunno, I feel that there may be something rather evil about minimizing a person's deathbed struggle to a reality T.V. show.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

MEGA Marathon

"The surest cure for vanity is loneliness."
-Thomas Wolfe

This week VH1 has been airing the "America's Next Top Model Mega Marathon"--all seven seasons of ANTM back to back. I've taken a few breaks for meals of Cheez-its and coffee and an occasional episode of "House" on DVD, and then it's back to the fireworks that result when putting several drama queens in the same house and in the same competition. It's TV junkie bliss.

"Dude," I've explained to my brother, "It's almost as addicting as 'House.'"

"I'm not going to watch 'America's Next Top Model,'" he replied.

"You've got to. Are you afraid you're going to like it?"

"No," he said. "It's the principle of the thing." End of conversation.

In any case, I find the show phenomenal, besides the fact that it turns me into a judgemental prick. Here's a few of my own comments while watching the show:

"She is not confident enough."
"She does not look like a model."
"She's way too bland."
"She's way too awkward."
"She's too annoying."
"She's got the looks, but not the attitude."
"Are we out of Cheez-its?"

So far, I haven't found myself judging the people outside of the television in the same way. I don't think I've been walking down the street wondering why in the world a fellow pedestrian left home dressed in that.

But the ANTM girls are opening themselves up to be judged, so I don't feel so bad. They can cry all they want, but I won't feel too bad. What were they expecting? This show's been on for seven seasons now. They should know that they're hair and makeup was not always as perfect as they always thought it was. They should know that Janice Dickenson is going to say hateful things.

By the way, Janice is the show's weakest aspect. She is more vain than any of the competitors. Luckily, I've heard rumors that Tyra has not invited her back for next season.

That was a bit of a tangent. Back to the judgemental stuff: as long as this marathon goes on, I'll be doing my judging. The day I make it on "America's Next Top Model" will be the day those girls can say what they want about my appearance. Until then, they have no right dissecting my looks. That would just be judgemental.