"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling
For the few days after when I told people I had seen it, they would of course ask, "How was it?" My response was always an enthusiastic, "It RULED!" or "Awesome!" or something to that effect.
To which they would respond....
This happened to the point where I started to wonder if everyone else saw a different trailer than I did. Possible evidence of dimensional shift at the very least.
"Yes! Really! It was fucking incredible! Why is everyone so shocked?"
I thought KING KONG was all gobsmackingly terrific. I don't know as I've ever watched a movie that nailed that pulpy, romantic 1930s adventure feel so well. Andy Serkis outdoes his Gollum from LOTR here. For the scenes on Skull Island alone I'd think it's the best adventure movie since RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Naturally, the fight between Kong and the t-rex is worth the price of admission by itself. And as thrilling as it all is, you'll still cry at the end.
Incidentally, there are some scenes in the movie that are a bit intense. You might think twice about taking a small child to see it. Some parents in our theater did and by the time of the human sacrifice scene... the poor kid sounded positively terrified. He was whimpering. Luckily his parents saw that he wasn't liking it and took him out early.
On Saturday, I'm going to see the original Merian C. Cooper KING KONG in a double feature with MIGHTY JOE YOUNG at the Egyptian. I've been holding off seeing for years, hoping to catch it for the first time on the big screen.
First off, I was late getting to my improv class on Tuesday night. I've never been late to class before, but I had to vote and wouldn't be able to afterward (class runs from 7-10 pm). So I called ahead and that was all good.
Ah, but then there's class itself. Imagine spending three hours a week feeling a complete moron among some of the best and brightest you've met in the past few years. I have one of the best teachers the place offers, the students in my class are great; nevertheless the concepts presented do nothing so much as skip across the surface of my mind, never sinking in.
Every week it's the same thing:
1. Go to class.
2. Feel like the Special Needs kid.
3. Wait for the short bus to take me home.
4. Realize there is no bus.
5. Wonder "What the fuck is my problem?"
6. Walk home.
7. Be depressed for days over my near crippling inability to do this improv shit.
8. Repeat the following week.
I've been so miserable about it lately that I felt like quitting. I wanted to quit so badly. So I called a couple friends for encouragement and all got nothing but variations on, "The trick to doing something tough is to get more engaged!" and "You've got so much fortitude! Stick with it! There's bound to be a breakthrough soon!"
Sometimes I think my friends are all just blood enemies lacking a firm resolve. So I didn't quit, and also dutifully checked off items number two through seven above.
By Thursday I was still thoroughly depressed, and I suspect not really suitable for human interaction. Naturally, I ignored all the signs and started to chat with Maureen on MSN Messenger. That was such a mistake.
I started out by trying to compliment her on the uniquity and sheer wonderfulness of her Halloween costume. Somehow this devolved within minutes (possibly seconds) into taking the losing side of a puerile argument over how some works of art are better than others, etc. This has always pissed her off in the past, and it was a total success in that regard once again.
At this point I got offline feeling more than a little annoyed with myself. I admitted to myself that maybe I was totally wrong in this instance --not due to the strength of Maureen's arguments but because of the way my heart nearly seized up when I tried to defend my side of it. No position that is right or defendable could ever make you feel that wretched. Right?
So, I was wrong and she was right. Again. I think it's possible that I'm wrong about that particular issue to a degree that I'm not able to fully comprehend at this time. So when I speak to her again I'll probably apologize.
P.S. It's been a while now. Much has happened. I quit my improv class for one. I don't like quitting anything I've started but came to the compelling conclusion that I was not enjoying myself, sucked really bad at it, and need to work far harder on it than I am willing to at this time in order to become merely adequate. On the bright side, I'm not depressed nearly as much.
Murrow's exposing McCarthy's tactics, etc. on national tv didn't pave the way for advocacy journalism. That's been around since almost the instant after Gutenberg got his bright idea. There was tons of the stuff written both in favor of and against abolition, women's rights, the Confederacy, etc.
No, the main difference between broadcast journalism today and in Murrow's time is that back then the networks ran their news departments at a loss. The news was considered a public service if you will.
While Murrow did not believe it was possible for a journalist to be completely objective in all matters, he thought it was always possible to report the news fairly and show all sides of a story. He was scrupulous in this. His See It Now shows are still considered by many as the greatest news programs in tv history, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association & Foundation give out a yearly award "honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism" that bears his name.
Now of course, everything's changed: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, etc. have all realized there's much money to be made in the news; which can only be a detriment to any actual reporting being done. A friend of mine who writes for a news program on a major network once joked on the phone to me that he "had to get back to writing the day's fiction." I laughed at the remark, but in a slightly chilled to the bone kind of way.
In regards to McCarthy, it's not as if Good Night, And Good Luck is the fifth movie in as many years dealing with subject. I think this might be the first done about any of it in my lifetime, which means it's also the first in yours; so you can't be that sick of it.
The McCarthy era was a dark one in American history. The issues at stake then are just as important now, and will remain so for as long as there is an United States. That being the case, it's necessary to bring it up from time to time; to inform the younger generation if no one else.
If you really want to get mad at a subject that has been done to death, can you all stop it with the Jesus nonsense already? Please? It's been two thousand years. Time to face the truth: He's never coming back, and you wouldn't get along with Him if He did (you think there's a generation gap with your folks, try coming to grips with your messiah's couple of millennia gap), and He's never heard of you. Let it go.
Also, Christian rock really sucks. Surely any divinity that encourages such things should be um, avoided.
More later, about other subjects.
Tuesday night I began on Level 3 of my improv classes at the IO West for the second time. Don't know if I mentioned it, but I was held back the last time and took a bit of a break before jumping back in.
After that class I believe I have an idea as to why I'm not progressing as fast I would like in improv. I've been trying to Not Look Stupid too much. I have to be willing to look Very Stupid Indeed, and that's just the nature of the animal.
On Wednesday I saw the movie Good Night, And Good Luck. Have you seen it yet? You must, as it is mighty.
In the early 1950s the Communist 'witch hunts' were full swing in this country. While not solely responsible for the climate of hysteria, no one made more hay of it than Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. His smear tactics destroyed the lives and careers of many, and scared even more.
In short, Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisonsin was a fucking ASSHOLE.
Into the fray stepped broadcast journalism god Edward R. Murrow. Murrow made his reputation during WWII, reporting on live radio from the London Blitz. When the Allies marched into Buchenwald, it was Murrow who told the world of the horrors found there. His credentials and integrity were beyond reproach. Murrow was a hero.
The movie tells how Murrow used that same sort of courage and tenacity to help bring down Joe McCarthy. It's a shame they couldn't have gone into it even more, but what they have is awesome. The movie is as factual as possible, everything in it has been "double sourced" as if it were a news story and not a movie about one.
Oh, and it's filmed in the crispest, most glorious black and white this side of Frank Miller's Sin City. The soundtrack contains a bunch of jazz standards sung by Diana Reeves. Everyone smokes in the movie, EVERYONE, and I think that's cool too.
You can find a long radio interview with the George Clooney about the making of the movie here. An interview with Bob Edwards, author of the book Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism can be found here.
Good Night, And Good Luck is a film well worth your time and money.
The bathroom has a built-in-the-wall space heater. I closed the bathroom door, turned the heater on and jumped into a hot shower, hoping to create a sort of sauna effect. Done showering, I dried off and opened the door.
The knob turned easily and gave every indication that it was going to open, except for the part where it actually opened and I left the bathroom to continue my day. The door was resolutely stuck on the first part.
I jiggled the knob, put my shoulder into it, banged my fist near the lock. After five minutes of that left me still standing on the wrong side of the door, I turned to look at the room around me.
My bathroom is not large. It has a small window (with burglar bars), a medicine cabinet, two drawers on either side of the sink and three cabinets below that.
Looking into one of drawers I found the bent into a rectangle zipper handle from a bag and a pair of vice grip pliers. (I had used the pliers in here previously to fix something and had left them in the drawer.)
Using the pliers I bent the zipper handle into a 'c' shaped piece of wire. I then slid the wire in the doorjamb over the lock and around. Now the two ends of the wire we're extending above and below the lock. Simplicity itself to just use the pliers to get a good grip on them and spring the lock, right? Man, how clever am I?
The lock would not budge. Obviously no one had told it how monstrously clever I was being. That kind of bugged me. Trapped though I was, I was not without resources. I had a pair of heavy vice-grip pliers did I not? I decided to get all Lord of the Flies on it.
I brought the pliers down hard on the doorknob. Repeatedly. There were a few times when I imagined individuals that will have to evolve a few millenia before I can embrace them in the warm folds of the word "loathe." That spiced it up a bit.
When hitting was not entirely successful, I used the pliers to rip pieces of the doorknob off in strips. Beneath the knob I saw that the lock mechanism was encased in a sort of circular box of harder metal. I began to hit at that.
At this point, I could hear my upstairs neighbor begin to get ready for work. I yelled her name "Tamara!" over and over. Nothing could dissuade her from her goal. I listened to pee, shower, brush her teeth and gambole off to work. She never heard me.
Back in my bedroom, I could hear my cellphone ringing. It was probably work calling. I was supposed to be there at 8:40 a.m. If they were ringing me, that put the time at close to ten.
Sizing up the door and my magnificent vice-grip pliers, I saw that it might be possible to take the hinges off. Some struggle later, the hinges were off the door and on the counter. The door stood closed, unbeaten.
I sat back against the tub. You have got to be fucking kidding me. Why can't I get out of here? This wasn't just a closed door. It was beginning to take on the aspects of an existential crisis.
I think it was here that I started kicking at the door like an insane person and hurling abuse at it in voluminous supply. The word 'bitch' was screamed, and 'motherfucker'; then I strayed off the path of known obscenity and wound up in a linguistic patch best known to the children sired of merchant sailors, raised in the Catholic church, and run off to be carnies.
Resigning myself to the idea that I wasn't ever going to leave my bathroom without help, I put my face in the window and listened for activity. When I heard some, I yelled. Much of my yelling consisted of things like, "Hello! Can anyone hear me? I'm trapped in my bathroom! Helloooo!" I was not heard, or roundly ignored.
I heard someone punching the security keypad to the parking lot next door, and yelled louder. Nothing. Finally, I said "YOU, PUNCHING THE KEYPAD! CAN YOU HEAR ME OR NOT?"
Guy: Who is that?
Me: It's me. I live in one of the lower apartments over here. I'm trapped in my bathroom. Can you let my landlady know? She lives in the front apartment.
Guy: Ummm... okay. Which apartment do you live in.
Me: The lower rear one.
My landlady appeared a few minutes later with Dean, the handyman. They passed me my cellphone through the window and I called in to work. I had to repeat myself alot to be heard over the gut laughing of everyone there.
Dean eventually had to take the moulding off the outside of the door to get it open and let me out. He said that a spring had broken inside, forcing the 'male end' of the lock farther into the doorjamb and making it impossible to open.
The end. Those vice-grips were awesome, but now I wish I'd had a fire ax instead.
I offer now the meat of their remarks:
Upon review of the letter submitted by Mr. Jack's union representative and the written comments attached from Mr. Jack himself, it is the hearing officer's opinion that there is no remorse or lesson learned by Mr. Jack. he presents himself as a target that has been singled out and implies that the no internet policy is "19th century and old-fashioned. He also states that his job as a Clerk Typist is at a high level of performance. The tone of Mr. Jack's written response is indicative of someone who believes it is not necessary to amend his work performance even after supervisory counseling. In his written statement, he clearly understands that he violated the rules and admits to both charges.
"No remorse or lesson learned..." You just have to love that. It makes me sound kind of tough, like the rest of the clerks should all start titheing me a portion of their cigarettes.
The outcome of all this was never in question. I was always going to be suspended for two days. My union rep turned out to be less than helpful; rescheduling my hearing twice, then having me write my letter instead of appearing in person. She probably saw nothing to be gained in paying attention to my case.
The truth is, though my letter was a minor thing at best --I got an obscene amount of pleasure out of writing it. I actually prefer this outcome to one where I had never written the letter and never got suspended.
So, no internet at work for me. Not because I've seen the error of my ways. No. It's better lose gracefully now, so that I can win loud and disgracefully later.
Hmmmm. This arrogance occasionally feels very good on me.
In reviewing my case, no doubt the number of times that I've been written up for using the internet with come across as very damning evidence indeed. I ask that you consider some other factors in making your judgment.
At no point in my time as a clerk typist in Access Services have I ever been written up for an inability or unwillingness to perform my duties. In matter of of fact when assigned to the circulation desk I have invariably chosen to work at station #4, a center position affording high visibility to patrons and a corresponding higher volume of work for the clerk sitting there.
Because of my experience and knowledge of the library I think that I have earned a good reputation for my facility and dispatch in assisting patrons. Many have commented to me or to my superiors that if it weren't for my actions at the desk they would have despaired of ever getting out of the line at all. Certainly no patrons have ever complained that I was too busy reading or surfing the internet to pay attention to them.
So, I have to ask: Why does this rule exist? What purpose does it serve? I have asked this question of my supervisors repeatedly in the past and have always been told that why the rule exists doesn't matter, only that it is followed. However, I have my own theories as to why it was enacted.
Up until last week, clerk typists were allowed to read at the circulation desk (this by the way also caused more than one person to do a double take on the non-use of the internet rule). Now we've been told in a staff meeting that no one is allowed to read at the desk.
While the reason for this decision was not given, everyone in the department knows: One clerk typist in particular would position herself at the circulation desk in such a way as to be nearly invisible to patrons and thereby ignore them to continue reading. Instead of doing the logical thing and just punishing her, all of us are made to suffer.
I surmise that it is much the same with internet use. Some employee somewhere misused it and rather than punishing offenders on an individual basis it was believed that a blanket rule would be simpler. Except that no one to my knowledge follows it, including every single library assistant, senior librarian, etc. that wrote me up for the transgression. No, really.
Perhaps you worry, "What would the public think?" They wouldn't think anything of clerk using the internet or reading a book if they were in turn helped in a courteous and efficient manner. Do you worry over what employees of the U.S. Post Office do when you are not in line to buy stamps? Of course not. No one does.
Being a clerk typist in Access Services is a simple but stressful job. Largely this is due to the constant activity in the department. But the Los Angeles Public Library is not a 19th century factory environment and should not be run like one. It is a hard job sometimes and does not need to be made harder still. It's rules like this one, hypocritically enforced at best, that cause drops in morale and productivity in the workplace.
I believe that I do my job as clerk typist to a very high level of performance. The fact that I've never been written up otherwise would surely indicate this to be true. However, what I have repeatedly been made to feel over time is that it is not how well I do my job that matters, but how well I conform.
I am good at a great many things, conforming to rules that seem illogical has never been one of them. In regards to the non-use of the internet rule, I think the rule is unjust. At the very least it is unjustly applied. Benjamin Franklin would be appalled.
Thank you for your time,
Oh, like your cure is any better.
Work is going to beckon in a few hours. Before that I have to write something. No, not this. Something in addition to this. Something that is most likely distinctly not fun. It's for work and well, hypothetically I guess it could be fun.
When I started working at the Los Angeles Public Library five years ago I signed this little disclaimer that I don't have in front of me at this moment. But the gist of it was that I would follow library policies, blah, blah, blah, and not use the internet while I'm at work.
At first, it wasn't all that big a deal. I was quite honestly happy to have a regular job after trying for one for over six months. Over time it became obvious that my job was not really intellectually full enough to occupy my every moment. Also, there was the fact that everyone in the library was using the internet: Librarians, library assistants, you name it.
So, since it didn't impair my ability to do my job, and in fact the library is a place mainly about the dispensation of information, and because the last time I checked it is the 21st Century, and the rule is Really Fucking Stupid... I used the internet. More importantly, I used the internet... and got caught.
In five years I got caught about ten times all told. In every case, the people that wrote me up for this transgression used the dreaded internet themselves. Without a doubt there was important library related business to be done on the Mervyn's website. Oh, and if you think porn is important to you How Much More Urgent must it be to an institution like the Los Angeles Public Library? Thankfully, certain of my managers have done the important initial research into these matters.
So now my boss is really pissed at me about using the internet. I'm not obeying any ridiculous rule I'm given and she's nothing if not maniacal about rules. She's usually to be found marching around Access Services screaming in a manner that says "I wish I were a Mongol warlord vanquishing my enemies!"
Sad to say, the woman has all the people skills of a woodchipper. I keep hoping she'll rise to the level of her incompetence and thus be out of my hair. Unfortunately I am beginning to think this has already happened when she took over the Senior Libarian position in my department.
After getting written up the last time for internet use, I was informed that I have a hearing to go to with personnel. I was told that I just didn't realize How Serious This Is and that I was facing a possible suspension from work for two days.
I'm allowed to have union representation at the meeting. My union rep has told me that "saying everyone does it (including my managers) and only I am being singled out for punishment" isn't a workable defense. Why am I paying these guys again?
Now I have to write a thing for a written presentation for this hearing. I know I should care, but honestly I don't feel like bothering. Maybe if I go in there and beg they'll attach my suspension days to one of my weekends so I can four or five days off, huh?
She was a blonde of about college age, of the freshly scrubbed and beautiful variety. She wore jeans and a t-shirt with a message on it. Bright smile. She was checking out a play.
The entire transaction was all business until the end. Then I looked her in the eye and said, "I've been waiting my entire life to say something but I didn't know it."
She smiles. "What's that?"
"You look completely adorable in your 'Search and Destroy' t-shirt."
This broke her up, and she walked away giggling.
K. loves Bruce Lee, zombies, samurai, science fiction, and weird genre stuff enough for any three of the others. She has tattoos and I suspect that one of them is a picture of Meryl Streep with a red circle and slash through her face.
The movie started at 12:20 and I got home at around 2:45. I am writing on just south of three hours sleep. My nerve endings are like live wires, and that's before I started drinking the coffee.
The movie was great. Like all of Joss Whedon's work, it was full of character, action, and shocks. It isn't necessary to have seen the tv show Firefly to enjoy Serenity, but those that have will get even more out of it.
I don't want to say more about the movie at this time. You should be allowed to see it without being spoiled.
(Incidentally, look at that Amazon page for the tv show dvds. It has a five star rating based on 1644 reviews. If you shop Amazon often like I do, you know how rare it is for something to get beyond three or four hundred reviews. Also, said reviews are on the whole very thoughtful and cogent. Which is also a rarity.)
You'll be hearing much more about Serenity in the coming weeks I think. It was far more affecting and surprising than Star Wars: Revenge of the Shit by the way. It certainly has me anxious for a sequel.
As for the writing, well, I am in the process of throwing myself into the thick of it. I am thrashing out ideas for a ground level tv show. It's not for a network or anything. It would be all DIY and use supposed weaknesses as powerful strengths.
Before you ask: No, I don't know what I'm doing. If I did, I wouldn't have any need to do it.
Chills to the bone, eh? Yet still SO TRUE. The heads of my department seem on the whole hugely uninterested in hiring bright people who can do the job. (I was hired by personnel and put in there at the last minute.) We have several substitutes who would love full time employment but when it comes to choosing... my boss is totally bent on always selecting the dullest, most bovine candidates. Any occasion when they don't follow this rule of thumb is cause to celebrate.
Let me make something clear: My job as library clerk is not hard. Being a really good library clerk is nothing to shout about. But it's such a not difficult job to do that you really have to struggle to find someone who can't do it to a professional level.
I get morbid and depressed when I think of all the fascinating work my synapses could be firing over. Then I go to the library and go livid when what a job that should be Grand Theft Lollipop becomes an ordeal because someone else's synapses fire naught but blanks.
Remember when I said that working in Access Services was the hardest job in the library? Well, sometimes I think that on some level that it was just me. Good friend and consumer of umbrella drinks Randall informed me that no, I was correct: Access Services is Hell: Library Division.
More on that stuff some other time.
Right now, I wanted to mention that I have tickets to see Serenity tonight at 12:20 a.m. Gentle Reader, It Is Going To Rule. My favorite review for it so far has been this one by Ken Tucker in New York magazine. Be warned: There are spoilers. Some choice quotes from the review:
Joss Whedon proved in his long run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (seven seasons) and his short one on Firefly (eleven episodes), he has two distinct yet complementary gifts: He can write quick, gabby banter for an array of heroes and oddballs better than any auteur since Preston Sturges, and he can dramatize the camaraderie within an ensemble better than anyone since Howard Hawks.
Serenity frequently plays like the best sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark that Steven Spielberg never made.
So basically, Mr. Tucker would have you know that Serenity has been perfectly tailored to fit my ever demanding movie watching needs. Which can only be great for the rest of you, barring those perverse individuals who watch Tarkovsky movies for fun.
Earlier this year, I had a dream. Not a dream in the Martin Luther King Jr. sense of the word, but in the "Freudian Wonderland" sense.
For whatever reason, I usually don't remember my dreams. Most of the time it's like I don't even have them. It's just go to bed; nothing, nothing, nothing... and wake up. The joke I tell myself is that I dream so much during the day that my dream center is too tired to bother at night.
Because of the nothing, when I do remember any dreams --I pay attention to them. Examine them for meaning, say. Of course most of them come off like my brain running a regular diagnostic test. There does not seem to be much of anything to parse.
Then... there are the others. The ones where my subconscious seems to step out from behind the curtain and state what it wants me to know in no uncertain terms. This has happened now... three times? Well, twice for sure.
I first noticed the phenomenon when I was twenty. There was a girl I was quite interested in who was still in high school (Shut up). This girl, we'll call her Grace, went on a choir/band trip to Virginia Beach for a competition.
The morning of the day her class arrived at the hotel in Virginia Beach, I had a dream: Singer k.d. lang's face appeared on the palm of my left hand and said, "Today at three o'clock in the afternoon, Grace will have sex with another man." Then I woke up.
The day was spent with me feeling a bit torn. On the one hand, I didn't like the idea of Grace with anyone else. On the other, wouldn't it be supremely weird if my dream turned out to be spot on?
That night, Grace called me up at seven. I immediately told her about my dream and asked her if it was correct. Yes, it was, even down to the time of day. Was I mad with her? Not really. We weren't serious or anything and I was still a bit jazzed over the strange occurrence of the morning.
In fact I was so thrilled that I'd gotten a message from Something, that I paid very little attention to the actual content of what it was telling me. In my youthful naivete I believed the event indicated that Grace and I had some sort of deep connection. Now? I think the dream was meant to serve as a warning to me. (Incidentally, Grace and I are still friends. As for our relationship, it's stayed 3:00 in Virginia Beach ever since.)
Years pass. In May of this year, I had another dream of a very different nature:
It's night. I am outside under the sky standing in the center of a circle.
People surround me on the outer rim. They dance, chant, and beat drums. Some have torches, others swing whirling braziers of fire. The blood of a freshly killed animal is on the wind and in the lungs of everyone present.
I'm scared, and don't know what's happening, or why. Clearly I'm the focus of what's transpiring, but I'm not sure if that's such a good thing.
A shaman enters the circle with me. He's all creeped out in the current fashion of bones and mystic regalia.
The chanting, the dancing, the drumming all build and intensify. My heart slides into an unrelenting Art Blakey solo. Then the shaman speaks. He intones slowly and is not unsure of the words:
You were given a Responsibility.
You are running out of time.
You will not live forever.
BOOM! Everything STOPS, and I wake up. For the next three days I was by turns intrigued and terrified over the dream. My main thoughts were, What the hell was that? and Just how much time do I have?
Which brings us up to Right Now. After much consideration, I have decided that I am going to be quitting my job at the library soonish. I don't know when or how, but before my 36th birthday on June 16th, 2006 for certain; quicker than that when I figure out the means.
Now before you all launch into me, I know what I'm saying sounds bizarre. "How can you afford to quit your job?" Well, um, I can't.
Getting another 'straight job' is also not a solution. The problem with those jobs is that they value conformity over excellence. Try as I might, I am just hopeless at conforming. I stick out like a sore thumb in a sargasso of clawhammers. And frankly? I am thoroughly sick of taking on work that requires me to stifle the best most valuable parts of myself in favor of a bland automaton type 'productivity.'
So no new straight job. Neither do I feel I can afford to ignore either the dream or my gut feeling on this. But do I really have to quit? What purpose does that serve?
It's like this:
Life is short. Every hour spent doing things that bore me senseless and dull my imagination is an hour I'm going to regret on my deathbed. Looking back on even this much life it's never been the stupidly brave things I've done that I regret --always the chances not taken in favor of some foolish sense of security.
Anyway, this post is not about giving answers. I don't have any answers yet. But I am asking the questions right now, and because I've got a big fucking brain I expect that I will come up with some workable answers in time.
(As an aside, do you know what the life of a genius is like? I'll tell you: Everyone goes on and on about how smart so-and-so is... until he or she says something that the other party disagrees with. Then said genius is felt to be misguided or still has a lot to learn. This is true even if both parties agree that one is a genius and the other is not, by the way.)
Jack, I can hear you saying, what is your responsibility anyway? Simple: To be a writer and create. To have the thoughts that others can't and go to the places in my imagination that others would shrink away from.
Maybe it doesn't sound like much to you. But it is all that I have been entrusted with, and it is big enough.
In my more fanciful moments I'd say that the message in my dream was given to me by the gods. More likely, it's just my subconscious making obvious something I already knew on a very deep level. It's no matter either way. As Alan Moore wrote, "The one place gods inarguably exist is in our minds where they are real beyond refute, in all their grandeur and monstrosity."
So there you have it. Do I sound a little pretentious to you? Well, okay then. I warned you at the beginning that I was probably going to sound like an ass. You have only yourself to blame for reading this far. Truthfully, I feel somewhat ridiculous writing about it. But there's a great sense of relief too.
How about that?
Last year on the BBC radio program CHAIN REACTION, Alan Moore interviewed Brian Eno. I listened to it and was amazed, but you can read the transcript of the two geniuses engaged in conversation here. The 'giant man-eating spider' question remains a favorite.
My friend Lisa needs your help. She's from Houston and most of her family has evacuated because of Rita, but not all. The gig is "Operation: Rescue My Grandmother" and you can find out more about it here.
To anyone who happens to be reading this: Please offer her any assistance you can, even if it's just a $1 or a can of food. Lisa is very important to me, and if Hurricane Katrina has shown us anything, it's that this kind of stuff just cannot be left to the supposed experts right now.
Hmm. We are on the Global Frequency after all.
No. Skip that. Let me instead show you what on no account you should ever drink: .THIS. It's called Mountain Dew Pitch Black II and it promises "a blast of grape flavor with a SOUR BITE." (Emphasis theirs.)
Chalk a point up for the marketing department at Pepsi Co. They got the bite part of that description just right. This stuff tastes so filthy sweet they should have just called it Diabet-Ick!. The bottle claims that MDPB2 is a combination of "black grape and other natural flavors", which you have to admit sounds punchier than black grape and the corpse of an old man rotting in a greenhouse filled with fetid orchids.
Oh, and the bottle says that this particular type of Mountain Dew is a "Limited Edition" flavor. Once it's gone, that's it! That's really the only good thing you can say about it.
That's what happens sometimes when you try something new. Ewwwwww. Ick!
The library is the best job I've ever had: Insurance, dental, good pay, much difficulty in order to get fired. Plus: BOOKS, eh? Big plus there.
The circulation department is the busiest one in the library. No, really. People who work in other departments talk about how busy they are but one thing they all have in common is that they don't want to work in Access Services. That's because despite protestations to the contrary, they know.
In other departments like Science, or Literature there is time to slack. My friend Randall just transferred to Science and when he talks about his mornings now, they all sound like short vacations punctuated with lots of e-mail and the occasional burst of filing. "I got so much read this morning." I could kill him, but then who would I eat lunch with?
Working in circulation, interacting with the public as I do, you might think: I bet Jack has amassed a few pet peeves. You are so right, Gentle Reader. So. RIGHT. Here are a few, in no particular order:
1. People who bitch about miniscule fines. The poor jerks who owe fifty dollars or much, much more in library fines usually don't complain that much. They know why they owe so much, you know? If they do complain, well they sort of earned the right to be upset in a roundabout fashion. More often than not it seems the less someone owes the more nuts they go in response to it. I'm sorry, but if you have time to bitch about two dollars to a city employee, then no amount of telling me how important you are is going to convince.
2. People who are obsessive/compulsive about paying their fines. Then there's the ones who spaz out and slow the check out line down for infinite moments looking for that last quarter. Because they "don't want it hanging over their heads. "As if somehow, owing that last twenty-five cents could spell out karmic disaster for them. Please. No one cares. That line of people that stretches off behind you to the bad part of town in Mordor really doesn't care. Oh, and I couldn't raise my care level above NIL if I was to paid to, which in fact I am. Your fines are under five dollars and you can still check stuff out. So piss off, already.
3. People who return items that are wet. I shouldn't even have to explain this really. When you hand me something that is recommended to be stored in a cool dry place like oh, virtually anything you could possibly want to check out from the library --it shouldn't be wet. EVER. I don't mean you shouldn't have left that copy of The Great Gatsby out in the rain or dropped it in the tub. That goes without saying. I mean I don't want you handing me a book or video that is mostly dry (as it should be) but oddly wet in places. Because it sets me to wondering how this intrinsically dry object got patina of wet about it. Did you place it in next to the water bottle in your bag? Did your hands sweat from the activity of holding it on the bus? Did something more outre happen between you and this book? I have no way of knowing. If you're one of our filthier patrons (jerks who return videos with cockroaches in them represent), I really have NO WAY OF KNOWING.
4. Why is it that people who smell bad need to lean over the counter as far as they can? Well, Brainiac? Why? Incidentally, oftentimes women with flattering cleavage and large... fines also have on occasion been known to lean over the counter. That's not a pet peeve though. I just wanted to mention it.
5. People who cannot alphabetize. This one is actually directed at co-workers of mine. We have a big shelf where we keep the holds and several times a week (or even several times a day) I can't find the item a patron wants to pick up because Helen Keller decided to drop by for a spot of shelving. This really pisses me off because when I'm fantasizing about all the rocket science jobs I'm capable of, it strikes me that this one is so easy to get right. It's only the alphabet we Use Every Day.
6. Bureaucratic horseshit. This job could be so easy, I shouldn't have to put up with any of it. The soccer moms that are my bosses think otherwise. You know, one does the right thing because it's the right thing to do --not because it's in a manual. There's actually too much to write about on this subject. So particular explanations will have to wait.
But not long.
Oh, and there was bellydancing! I must say I quite enjoy the impression of myself my friends reflect back at me.
Oh, and before I forget: When I saw this I laughed mightily. My birthday is the REAL Number Of The Beast.
This bit of information is very exciting. Are there career opportunities available for me to become the Antichrist? My high school guidance counselor so didn't hip me to this. What a dick.
"Evil" is a growth industry. The best part is, I already have the cds for the job.
Can you dig it?
I knew you could.
Moonlighting, Seasons 1 and 2 -There have been various tv shows that I've been obsessed with over the years, but this was the first. Detectives + Screwball Comedy - the Banal Car Chases that infected just about every other show of the period. For a change, the mysteries they solved were actually compelling as well, occasionally even slightly perverse. If Moonlighting broke the fourth wall a little too often, well hell, even that was unique and different at the time.
(Incidentally, when I mention Banal Car Chases above I am not speaking out against ALL car chases, just lame ones. In particular the cookie-cutter-here-we-go-again exercises in stupid repetitiveness that earmarked most of the adventure shows of the 1980s. We're talking mostly of the Stephen J. Cannell and Glen Larson stable here I think.)
St. Ives -This is one of my favorite Bronson movies, based on one of my favorite Ross Thomas novels (The Procane Chronicle by Ross Thomas writing under his Oliver Bleeck pseudonym). Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a professional go-between hired by an aging millionaire to get back his stolen diary. Said diary is important because it contains within its pages plans for the perfect robbery. The book is better than the movie as I recall, but Bronson gets to offset his crude appearance with a bit of class (His St. Ives has expensive tastes you see). Jacqueline Bissett also stars, and sexier than her is difficult to imagine.
The Essential Steve McQueen Collection -Woo hoo! Bullitt, Papillon, The Cincinatti Kid, and The Getaway. Combined with The Great Escape 2-Disc Collector's Edition you might have Man Movie Awesomeness to turn boys into men. As it is, the mere contemplation of the set makes this man geek out like a boy all over again. Oh, and Tom Horn and Never So Few are just gravy combined with the others in the set.
Ong Bak -I confess I've never seen this one before and can't even find the Special Uncut DVD version I bought. Anyway it looked cool, and at $13.95 was very affordable.
When I got to class everyone was interested in what I had bought. I showed them and discovered to my horror that excepting one other guy in class NO ONE HAD EVER SEEN A STEVE MCQUEEN MOVIE. They kind of knew who he was, sure, but that was it.
I was shocked. These are all straight men in their mid-twenties to early thirties. None of them are what you would call ignorant or uninformed. They all ran to see the new Star Wars, etc. Did these men not have fathers? Were they all the products of broken homes? I was about to venture a few questions about Clint Eastwood but was more than a little afraid of what I'd find out.
The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: These are rites of passage for any American boy of a certain age, aren't they? The watching and appreciation of these movies is as American as baseball.
Jack: A question: Do you think people who cannot appreciate the profane in the world (i.e. the clever use of profanity, expression of ideas that might be considered dirty, etc.) also have a corresponding lack of appreciation of the sacred?
Jeremy: I believe that the more simplistic view of the world you have, the weaker your soul. So, yes.
Jack: You know, I don't know what I like and am impressed by more: My question, or your answer.
Jeremy: (Laughs) Hint: It's your question.
Jack: Ah, but your answer to the question was sublime.
Jeremy: I've got to stop putting this essay off. Seems you've worked your way into my theme.
Jack: Excellent! My fifteen minutes of fame is assured! Now I can focus all my energy on achieving another gratuitous fifteen that I wasn't even allotted!
Jeremy: You've heard of the Turing test, of course.
Jeremy: No program has been able to pass it yet. The reason is because of a lack of nuance. There simply aren't enough programmers in the world to put that much character into an intelligent system.
So the point is, since I always approach these things obliquely for some damn reason, and also because you're currently fascinated by Dawkins & the complexity of nature, it's become clear to me that simplistic views, ones that summarize (as in racism or stereotypes), or are absolute (with us or against us), or are a work of accounting (health of a child is worth some dollar value) are the exact forms of thought that steal our souls.
Jack: Interesting. You know, we had a conversation about this kind of thing a few months ago.
Jack: Yeah. It was expressed differently, though. We were talking about the American Revolution and came to the conclusion that if you looked back at the great figures of history... (Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Victoria Woodhull, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, etc.) what you notice is that the greater the subject, the more complex as people they were.
Jeremy: Oh yes, I remember that conversation. They were Shakespearian in stature, with flaws as great as their presence.
Jack: Right. And your real fucking bastards were simplistic in comparison. Everything was an either/or, black & white proposition with them.
Jeremy: E.g., In religio-fanatic world, everything is a summarizing symbol. "Cross", "tit on the TV", "Flag on the Floor," "Muslim/Christian": It all strives to simplify.
Jack: You know what I find really cool?
Jeremy: What? Redheads?
Jack: I notice that when all ideas of 'Fate' or 'Destiny' or 'Religion' are expunged from my worldview (but not the possibilities of same), when everything I am becomes my sole responsiblity...
I suddenly feel capable of anything.
Jeremy: Perhaps it's comforting to know it's all a playground anyway.
I took the Level 1 class back when I lived in Chicago (the original Improv Olympic is located less than a block from Wrigley Field). Ultimately I couldn't continue on at the time though, as my income (derived solely from medical research studies at the time) had temporarily dried up.
Why would someone fork over hard earned money ($300 for each eight week course, six levels in all!) to learn what seems from the outside to be nothing so much as getting up on stage and making shit up on the fly? Is this a worthwile skill? Is it something that can even be taught?
My reasons for doing this are as follows:
1. Getting up in front of complete strangers and spouting off whatever comes to mind scares the shit out of me. Reason enough to take it on right there.
2. It will free up and get the creative juice flowing. This is just one method to use. Others include: imbibing strange substances like absinthe when they present themselves, shufflings of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies cards (look it up), perusing books of magic and religion (Aleister Crowley's Book Of Lies currently with something by Austin Osman Spare later on), and giving myself over to the occasional mad impulse that seizes me.
3. The social aspect. I now spend three hours a week minimum playing at this stuff with a room full of people smarter and funnier than I am.
The first four weeks of this endeavor (i.e. January) were very hard for me. Learning to let go and stop thinking so much takes some doing. I just began Level 2 last night. I am definitely improving.
Last year I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Phaedra. She's going to college right now to study Educational Systems or somesuch thing. I told her that if I ever went to college I would definitely end up majoring in something functionally useless that interested me a great deal like "Fire Eating" or "Inveterate Gambling" something. Attending Clown College also holds some appeal.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago: Randall and I have a conversation over lunch. He's studying to get his library science degree right now. Turns out, he's paying pretty much the same amount for his classes as I am for mine.
Okay, so improv isn't as glamourous as fire eating or earning a degree in Clownology, but you know what? It'll do for now.
a. Have no children and desire none of same.
b. Had a vasectomy almost two years ago myself.
When I had the operation done (Only a $10 co-payment with my insurance! That's a savings of oh, roughly... $190,518.00! WOOT!), there was no indication of it being a trend or anything of the sort. I knew one guy who had done it back then. He has not had occasion to regret his decision.
For that matter, neither have I. Incidentally, unlike one of the guys in the article, I spent a good SIX years pondering the question. Oh, and I haven't joined any groups of the "childfree" or what have you because I'm not a joiner by nature, and all of that smacks a little of desperation. But what do I know? I live in L.A. If I lived in Nebraska, or Michigan, or wherever I might beg them to let me join.
So even though I spent six years thinking over the matter I expect someday I will live to regret the decision. The tragedy that triggers this feeling of regret will not however, be the one that so many friendly doomsayers in my acquaintance have imagined: I am not going to suddenly fall in love with some woman that makes me want to be a father.
NO. It won't be like that because you see, it just isn't tragic enough.
The moment that lays me low will be when I meet a fabulously sexy and intelligent woman who doesn't want marriage, definitely does want a child, and has decided on ME for the lucky sperm donor. Naturally, the only possibility of sex with her will reside in my capability of making her pregnant.
I can hear you now. "Jack, that is SO unlikely... "
Yes, Dear Reader, I know. But figure this: You do your thing, get what you want, and then (and only then) fate smacks you with a comeuppance you could have never planned against in a million years. That's how tragedy works.
What's funny is that I might already know this woman. She fits the first two criteria, and a friend tells me her eyes all but flash rapidly in morse code when she sees me in the library.
Whatever. She has many options I'm sure. Still, It would be interesting if she asked me. I've never cried so hard that I started laughing before.
Finally though, I have spent cash on something for the wall. I bought a print by Geof Darrow. He's an artist best known for the comic books THE BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT and HARD BOILED (both written by Frank Miller) and the design of every damn thing in THE MATRIX movies. It's the image off of CHEVAL NOIR #2 which you can see here and it measures 19" x 30".
What I love is all the questions the picture and it's myriad details throw out at the observer: Who is this guy? (Well, in fact I know the answer to that one: His name is Bourbon Thret.) What's he running from or toward? Where's he been? Looking at the hat, where hasn't he been? What adventure is he stuck in the middle of and what is he smiling about?
Now that THE MATRIX movies have come to their ignominous end, Darrow has a new comic book out: SHAOLIN COWBOY. Issue #1 is out now in finer comic shops everywhere and recommended to everyone who thinks they would like a book featuring great art, a strong silent hero in the Sammo Hung mold, his high verbal donkey sidekick, and more than a little of the old ultraviolence. The first is mostly set-up and hilariously so. An interview with Darrow about the book can be found here.
Now to get it framed.