Tuesday, September 30, 2003

"And then he popped me at about 75% force in the neck, which is how I got this f***ing hematoma that - "

"Did that hurt?"

"Did it . . . yes."

"That's funny, I wouldn't think that would be painful for you."

"Do I want to ask why?"

"Well, in a worldview where spiders and dogs are interchangeable, I'd think that enormous pain and great physical pleasure'd be pretty interchangeable too."

"Oh sh*t, oh come on, I said nothing like -"


"It wasn't a f***ing all-points analogy! I just said -"

"That dogs, spiders, eh, more or less the same."

"That they're equally [Halloween voice] scayyyy-reee to me, which is really the reasonable position -"

"Oh your credibility, it's such sh*t -"

[sharply] "OK. OK. It wasn't a great analogy. Listen. Fine. Forget spiders and dogs. It's more like spiders and chickens."

[sputtering] "Oh, super improvement, honey, that's a super -"

"F***ing listen. God. GOD. If I'm walking through the woods and I see a really big spider, I think oh, there's a creature. If I'm at, Christ I don't know, someone's ranch and I see a rooster I think oh, there's a creature. Does that help?"

"Is everything about cock with you?"

[hoarse, unintelligible]

Monday, September 29, 2003

I'm re-reading M-Amis's "Moronic Inferno", a collection of essays on American themes (but not "about" America, because as he notes at the outset writing about "America" is as feasible as writing about "life" or "people"). Given how I feel about M-Amis, I can't post anything of my own while reading him; I'd be as apt to do that as to follow a full day of listening to all extant Radiohead albums by purchasing a secondhand Casio keyboard and plinking out some tunes. So, instead, I will post something he wrote while following the '84 Presidential campaign. I have selected it because it's so eerily applicable to our current Commander in Chief:

"You watch and listen to Ronald Reagan much as you do to Jimmy Carter: marveling at their spectacular uneasiness in the realm of ideas, language and conviction. As front-runners, all they have to do is avoid, or minimize, the horrendous gaffes that seem ever ready to spring from their mouths. It is as if they can only just stop themselves from yelling out 'I hate blacks!' or 'Who is Anwar Sadat?'"

Don't you get the same feeling watching GWB speak? That he's struggling to rein in an itchy compulsion to holler, e.g., an off-color jump rope rhyme? Interesting to read something from the mid-80s that could as easily've been written today with a simple substitution of names.

(For the record, I post the above as a Republican myself. My keychain is a pewter G.O.P. elephant, for god's sake. My revulsion with GWB's administration is not partisan, I'm saying.)

Friday, September 26, 2003

[scribbling on the back of a large receipt] "It was this big. The spider on the carpet next to where I slept was this big."

"Did it really have the body shaped like an ant's like that?"

"No, ass****, it did not. The size. Are you OK with a spider of this size?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"

"Why . . . why wouldn't . . . are you listening, are you looking, are you having this conversation?"

"Hey, Jesus, I'm not afraid of spiders. It's like asking me 'Well, you're fine playing fetch with a terrier, but wouldn't you be scared playing fetch with a Great Dane?' No, I wouldn't be."

"Dogs? Dogs? You are comparing spiders to dogs? Can you be f***ing serious with me for thirty seconds? F***ing dogs?"

"Jennifer, look, what do you . . ."

"What I want is your full attention on this diagram! I am starting again! What this diagram depicts is the actual size of a spider that -"

"A spider with an ant body."

"Oh, f*** me, you're, god, f***ing priceless, I - "

[ . . . ]

Thursday, September 25, 2003

"Schutzhund" is a technique - lifestyle, really - of dog training conducted entirely in German. It has a pretty good-sized following in this and other non Germanophone countries. It's a fine system, as far as the results go: a dog who's been Schutzhund'd is one hell of a tautly trained dog. The breeds most commonly associated with it are your Dobermans, your German Shepherds and Belgian Turverens. Couldn't, you may be wondering, this same training be conducted in English? Why are there all of these people in Kentucky and Idaho and everywhere hollering at their dogs in German, often accompanied by peculiarly robotic, almost fascistic arm and hand movements? The Schutzhund folks will be more than happy to explain it to you. "Well, you see, if my dog responds only to commands in a foreign language, no one else can control my dog." Hmm. That's fair. How come German, though? "OK, that's because dogs hear hard, clear consonant sounds better than vowel sounds, and German, being a pretty guttural and, uh, emphatic language, good for shouting, works really well." Ah. And those are the oooonly two reasons, right, Schutzhund people? The only two?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

One of my Top 5 enemies works on the very floor of the building where I work. This means I have near-daily encounters with her acorn-cap haircut, the asymmetrical grimace she considers a smile, and most painfully of all her near-constant, extravagantly nasal singing. Singing at all times, but not songs: spontaneous, tuneless hum-scatting, with frequent, startling shouts of "buh-buh-BAH!-dee!" and the like. I've encountered few more inexplicable people. Why would such a grim, overbearing person attempt to construct an appearance of eccentric joviality through such vocalizations, when the frostbitten, underripe apricot of her heart is so clear to all? Occasionally there are profoundly inexplicable fashion choices as well: tweed jodhpurs, velvet overalls, disturbing elf shoes. Today is such a day. The offending garment is a coarsely crocheted sleeveless sweater, in background tones of moss and lung-pink with bright green text of "PANDA" across her ungenerous bosom. Underneath this text is a bearlike animal that is not a panda. I don't mean it's poorly rendered or would barely be recognizable without the helpful label. I mean it is not a panda. It might pass for a black teddy bear, but I think you'd all agree that pandas, in reality and in depiction on cheery sweatervests, must have white somewhere on them. If it's a solid black animal with an undersized head? Not a panda.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

There are 2 videos currently in longterm heavy rotation on the music video channels, both by purveyors of the generic candy-punk that's apparently a permanent fixture of the sonic landscape, that I've been struggling with. I could identify no reason why I should be so transfixed by these videos whenever they appeared. Certainly nothing to do with the music: the same sunny-chorused, earnestly-pogoing pap, unobjectionable but certainly not warranting my fascination. What is it about these 2 bands, these 2 videos, I wondered with no little consternation. I could formulate no theory. Then one recent afternoon my dear Lee was on the couch with me when one of the videos came on. "So I guess this is one of my favorite songs," I spat, voice twisting with self-disgust. Lee: "I like it too! It's so cute that they're brothers." Ah. "The two half-cute ones?" "Yeah, twins." Ahhh. Their twinness was obscured by the heavy eyeliner of one of them. Ohhhh, and perhaps . . . "Hey, Lee? That band [band name deleted for privacy]? They brothers, the two that sing?" "Duh, you didn't know that?" Well, not consciously I didn't. How clear it all became!

Monday, September 22, 2003

My hypervigilant awareness of my every public movement and statement, designed to prevent the embarrassments I'd otherwise incur as a spastic and a blurter, is surprisingly effective. I really don't have a Most Embarrassing Moment; I never relax enough to have one. Or, more accurately, I don't have an MEM of the typical sort: a tumble down prom stairs, a hot-date menstrual accident, that strain of nightmare. My MEM was one that went unremarked upon, unnoticed even, by its 2 witnesses, but it still makes me flush and grip my forehead to think of it. During last summer's trip to Montreal, I avoided speaking any of my poor shreds of French whenever I could possibly help it - which was all the time, since everyone spoke Anglais, if sometimes with a trace of a frown. So what I said in response to a parking lot attendant telling us that yes, this one parking lot would, via free shuttle, allow access to the Biodome, Insectarium and Botanical Gardens, came from a deeply-submerged and wholly uncharted part of me. Relieved by not having to pay 3 parking fees, I, enchanted, exhaled "Ahhhh, c'est parfait!" in an accent, God, what was it like? It was dusted with powdered sugar and had plump cherubs hovering above it, embracing. Where'd it come from? Who was that?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Dear Jennifer:

Yes, it's gastronomically cosmopolitan and even daring to purchase foods, at local Asian markets, with packaging entirely in a language you do not read. However, you should make a greater effort to remember that if you can't read the product description, you can't read the cooking instructions either. This was kind of cute the first couple times; now that you've done it maybe half a dozen times? No longer cute, only asinine and, frankly, worrying.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

I never intended this 'blog to become a public record of my feats of embarrassing hubris, but here's another. I evidently believe that it is interaction with me, and me alone, that will determine a non-American's view of Americans. If a foreign tourist asks me for directions, I feel that the responsibility for this person's entire impression of my homeland relies upon my cheerful, well-informed and courteous assistance. What's even more absurd is that I also feel this way with foreign-born Americans, e.g. the three Scandinavian-born American citizens I work with. The average duration of their residence in the US is about 20 years. They've all been here from college onward, and are in their early 40s. I still think that my every interaction with them will color their impression of native Americans! My god, the arrogance!
When used hypodermic needles first started showing up in the bed of my pickup, I found it unsettling. I now know that the far more unsettling occurrence is when they appear, then disappear.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

What follows is a partial list of things I apparently believe myself to be a reliable arbiter of, absent any special knowledge or other supporting evidence:

1) What is and what is not racist (special area of expertise: hidden racism in television commercials).

2) When it is and when it is not acceptable to use the word "rape" figuratively.

3) The probable behavior and, even more ridiculously, the inner lives of all domestic and wild animals. Example: "That Doberman down my street bit me yesterday." "Well, Dobermans have really good senses of humor, but their jokes are often misunderstood, probably because of their Germanic background. S/he was just playing."

4) Finally and most absurdly, whether a thing is or is not Art. (For this entry in particular, I must add that I am utterly without background, credentials or even interest.)

I am able simultaneously to realize that the above list marks me as both tiresome and sometimes momentarily insane, and feel that I'm definitely right. My confidence in this arbiter status is of sufficient strength that while asserting myself on any of the above topics, I regard dissent from others as mere willful obstinancy and, often, as a little rude and disrespectful.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Regarding a new ladies' shave gel ad I saw recently: "Rain Forest Fresh" is not a wise scent name. The rain forests, god bless them, are not "fresh". They're vast compost heaps. The humidity, see, and the teeming profusion of flora and fauna. It's not like a pristine seashore or the aseptic high desert. They're the Shiva of the global bioregions: an unending orgy of creation and destruction. Birds fall dead off trees and are rotting before they hit the ground. Its odors, I am saying, are not of the sort you want clinging to your freshly-shaved person.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Housekeeping usage note: when you move laundry from the washer into the dryer, you are not "switching" the laundry. Unless you're also taking clothes out of the dryer and putting them back in the washer, as I suppose is your right. Barring that, though, you're moving the laundry. No switching occurs. This surprisingly unremarked-upon misstep is like clothes washed in Tide: hyperallergenic.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Two recent additions to my Enemies List (now at a healthy total of 28):

1) Girlfriend of a disliked acquaintance. A bland middle-aged dyke eager to appear eccentric and irreverent; this eagerness manifests itself mostly in a desperately forced affection for "cult" humor like the Simpsons and Monty Python, things which everyone likes and which do not mark one as zany. (The Simpsons especially: a good rule of thumb is, if something is broadcast 3 times a day in all American cities, it is not a fringe phenomenon.) Moment of enemization: this fungirl has heard, thirdhand, stories about my titanically inept and bloodthirsty boss. At a recent, grueling birthday gathering, Fungirl engaged me in conversation about this boss. "What's his background?" she asked, antsy grin threatening to crack her brittle face wide open. I pretended not to know this was an ethnicity query and told her the nature of his employment history. "No, race-wise I mean," she helpfully clarified. "Indian," I answered after a pause just lengthy enough to amplify yet more her pulsating, miasmic insecurity. Then she said, my god, she said "'Indian'? Dot or feather?" DOT OR FEATHER, SHE ASKED.

2) A fellow I ride BART with most mornings. A prematurely balding, porridge-complected man, prone to a sheen of sweat even on chilly mornings. At all times, his headphones are belching out what seem to be Shittiest House Music 2003 compiliations. These factors alone, of course, are not enough to single him out for individual loathing. However: while listening to this music, he, daily, holds before him a giant spiral-bound sketchpad and draws. People dancing. People dancing to house music. Infernal. Infernal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

What explains the ugliness of nearly all body part names? It's been suggested to me that they're not really ugly, that it's our collective centuries of body-shame and ignorance that makes them seem so. I'm not buying it (except mayyybe just for the crotch terms). In fact, no explanation makes sense, not when the scope of this is considered. It's everything. Lung is an ugly word. Spleen. Scapula. Aorta. Esophagus. Even "skin" is a sick word, I think, and dermis is worse. Brain. The membrane that protects the brain - the dural matter? God! Pelvis. Bladder. Scalp. Urethra. Surely there're exceptions? Iris, maybe. But even that'd be ugly if not also a flower, I'm thinking.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

When visiting my parents, I get a cheap and thoroughly class-baiting thrill from skimming their Reader's Digests. I try not to be the sort of person who gets off on giggling at things of lower brow than my own, but Reader's Digest, like USA Today, proves too delicious a temptation. One of my favorite sections is the monthly multiple-choice vocab quiz It Pays To Increase Your Word Power. Its chief charm is that for each potential Word Power boost, the four potential choices are the correct definition and three answers that are neon-lit with their own garish wrongness. Here are some examples I hope to submit to the esteemed Digest for possible inclusion in a future It Pays.

arbitrary: 1.) comically oversized galoshes 2.) the taste of envelope adhesive 3.) random 4.) thirty-three

deity: 1.) bigger than a breadbox 2.) god or godlike figure 3.) generic Raisinets 4.) retirement home conga line

impede: 1.) to sign a document with the hand you don't ordinarily write with 2.) to feign grief at the death of someone you disliked 3.) to act as an obstacle 4.) wheatlike

pertinent: 1.) duty-free cigarettes 2.) appendectomy scars 3.) relevant 4.) scrimshaw carving of copulating natives

candid: 1.) chemical causing phosphorescence of deep-sea fish 2.) unrehearsed, impromptu 3.) morbid fear of cracking knuckles 4.) a tendency to spell words in an archaic way, e.g. "hiccough" for "hiccup"

Friday, September 05, 2003

OK, maybe just this: best player name of last night's competition: Trung Canidate. Runner up: Laveranues Coles.

And, a moment more - when the game's just started and the lineups for each team are given via a short video clip of each player stating his name and the college he attended? Most of the players struggle to appear as neolithically Ur-butch as humanly possible, faces stripped of affect, voice a gravel monotone. But most of them just come off like POWs (shouldn't it be PsOW?) reciting their name and rank for the Geneva Convention-prohibited cameras of their captors. And I want to say to them, look, either you're tuff as nailz or you aren't, and there's no use faking it. It's a rare man who's the sort who unselfconsciously refers to pink as "light red" and who feels his ride is effeminate because it has doors that open, rather than having a one-piece body a la General Lee. And just because you play football doesn't mean you have to try to trick us. Trung, I'm looking at you.

There will be no real post today, as the start of football season makes it impossible for me to think about much else and I'm not willing to risk losing the bulk of my fledgling readership by addressing sports. So. My lips are zipped in that area, and you all should be grateful for it. But how white my knuckles are, how hard-set my face in the effort to rein it in!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

A "nosebleed" is spontaneous, e.g. due to a drier clime than one's sinuses are accustomed to, and not the result of a blow. A "bloody nose" is the result of a blow. These two phrases are not interchangeable. Let's all observe this distinction, please. We have to take our order where we can find it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

All neurotics believe themselves to be especially, uniquely persecuted by life, but some of us are more justified than others in so feeling. One of my pupils is permanently bigger than the other. Cat fur is not "on" all of my garments even after laundering - it's woven into the fabric. I am allergic to every single sunscreen produced, including those designed for immunity-deficient infants. I do not know how to clip my toenails without incurring considerable, sanguinous injury. I can't even move a newspaper off the BART seat I'm going to sit in without getting newsprint all over myself. 85% of faxes I attempt to send will never go through. I lose one pen per day. No one generates more trash than I do. Other women with hair as long as mine do not, when walking in wind, end up with their hair completely wrapped around their heads and faces. My bag makes a loud banging noise with every step I take, as though there were heavy tins of some sort in it, despite containing only a wallet, Discperson and book. No key has ever worked well for me, or lock been unlocked with ease. I assume others do not have at least three itches at any given time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Road/spot names passed in Arizona this weekend: Big Bug, Bloody Basin, Dead Indian. About that first one. There was something on the carpet in our bedroom. Look, I've been there before. There've been things on the carpet, or wall, or pillow, or leg before, things to make your guts liquefy. It's to be expected. I try not to complain. It's, as the homeowners explained it, the price you pay for being surrounded by the lovelier and cuddlier fauna. If you enjoy the pronghorns, with their anime-huge, caviar-black/glossy eyes, *blink* *blink*ing, you must accept the existence of the lunging, obscenely glistening scorpions. And etc. But by god aren't there limits? So I like the wanly hopping cottontails and delightful roadrunners - does this really mean that a wolf spider the size (I mean it) of my palm needs to be quivering aggressively on my bedroom floor? I didn't know spiders got this big - not even in the goddamn rain forest would I have suspected this magnitude. I am treating it fliply now, in the tiny-spidered Bayrea, but when I was leaning against my bedpost with the room spinning around me there was no thread of comedy. It was the size of my palm, and it was challenging me. I was comically unup to that challenge, though, and the just-shy-of-elderly homeowner had to be summoned from slumber to dispatch the thing, which was the size of my palm. Once the shaking and sweating stopped and an uneasy sleep began, I dreamt that Wolfie von Bristleleg had bitten me, and that the poison of these Sonoran Desert monsters was exceptionally potent, and that the only remedy was be bitten many more times. Toward this end I had to have three of Wolfie's compatriots taped to my flesh, held to my skin under Saran Wrap, where they writhed and thrashed and bit and bit. One on each arm and one between my breasts. In the morning, I felt unrefreshed by my sleep.