please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, June 28, 2009

44 Lines about 88 Topics?

Internet memes just don't make it with me. (Although when th' Tugboat Cap'n invited me to participate in one specifically about books four years ago, I quickly hopped right on.) So when I was asked recently by George to take part in another one, I sort of went 'meh'.

But consider that you can use any manner of lenses to look at a thing.

1. Do you like bleu cheese? Yes.
2. Have you ever been drunk? Sure.
3. Do you own a gun? Yup.
4. What flavor of Kool Aid was your favorite? The powdered form of Nestea iced tea.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Not generally.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? I believe that to love a hot dog is to love yourself!


7. Favorite Christmas movie? 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

8. What do you like to drink in the morning? Coffee. Lots of it.

9. Can you do push-ups? Many!

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? Don't wear any.

11. Favorite hobby? Now this one raises questions. What's a hobby, as opposed to something you regularly do and enjoy, but not necessarily with some sort of intent, or for that matter, what if your job is also kind of your hobby? Does 'socializing' count?

12. Do you have ADD? Nope.
13. What's your favorite shoe? Not sure I have one.
14. What's your middle name? Adventure.

15. Name three thoughts at this exact moment. Frank, Mart-Bell and The Amazing Dynamo.

16. Name three drinks that you regularly drink. Maker's rocks & a glass o' water, A Grape Soda (actually Monopolova vodka with soda water and a floater of Marie Brizzard Parfait Amour), an Arnie Palmer (Jack Daniels' optional).

17. Current worry? I work in an industry where I could be killed, crippled or catastrophically brain-damaged at any time. I need to work in a clear space, mentally. Or, as I put it recently, somewhere else and on entirely another topic:
"And then they all died..." is the real punchline to every joke. But y'know, only a fucking tool meditates on it too long. I'm also very likely to get old, and my body will cease to function as masterfully as it currently does. That would be my reward for Not Dying. Call it what you will; dark cauldron o' shadows or whatever. Enjoy your freakin' life, jack.

18. Current hate right now? Aw man, I'm too much of a zen warrior about that shit. 'There is no enemy'. Well, yes there is...The tyranny of the mediocre? How hard it is to communicate even basic things to most people? How expertise is looked upon as a bit too effete, and is to be replaced by shouted, repeated Opinion?

19. Favorite vacation? Dreams.

20. How did you bring in the new year? Arguing with my girlfriend. I'm a class act.

(Stop. Did you just start talking about death? What did anyone else on that message board say?
saying that 'only a tool meditates on it too long' makes all of the great majority of great artists in the world into tools. Though, those who mediate on it on message boards are probably guilty of this, i.e. me, but I see that we have become a society so shallow, that thinks everything can be cured by technology, will have a lot of trouble getting old."

To which I replied:
"Well, in all honesty, art to one side, perhaps most of the artists in history were indeed a royal pain in the ass to actually be around...

Also, I agree: the main concern of any media orgasm like this has a great deal more to do with the individual need to see one's self as unique, and oh what a tragedy it will be when a soul such as your own passes from this plane.

After which we have religion, which generally promises that your soul will continue, and one so unimpeachably wonderful as yourself can live Forever!

I actually wasn't being dismissive with that 'tool' thing: be honest with yourself about your mortality -how could you not?- but remember that there's plenty of other things you can do between your birth and your death: that's all."

Can you tell? We were talking about Michael Jackson!)

21. Where would you like to go? The past.

22. Name three people who will complete this. Probably nobody I know in the immediate vicinity. They're pretty stupid questions, and so far I can't think of any better substitutes. If I do, I'll start an internet meme, I guess.

23. Do you own slippers? So far, I've been stymied in my attempts to find slippers that I actually like. Generally, it's garden clogs for me.

24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? Black, as is often the case.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? What are you asking?
26. Can you whistle? Like a champ.
27. Favorite color? As a rule, blue.
28. Would you like to be a pirate? Why? You recruiting?

29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Oddly, the shower is one of the few places I don't sing. These days, if I'm singing out loud, it's "The Porpoise Song" by The Monkees.

30. What's your favorite girl's name? Osa!
31. Favorite boys' name? Don't have one, really. Archibald!
32. What's in your pocket right now? Keys. Impressed?

33. Last thing that made you laugh? I laugh so goddamn much every day, I don't even know where to begin.
Actually, this comment thread about the death of Billy Mays:

Whoever delivers the eulogy at his funeral should SHOUT THE ENTIRE THING!



He had apparently just signed on to shill for Taco Bell. I can't even imagine what that would have been like.







(All of those lines were delivered by different people. Isn't the internet wonderful?)

34. Best bed sheets as a child? Pass.

35. Worst injury you ever had as a child? Oh my: um, either the one time when I was running down a hill with a rusty tailpipe in my hand, and narrowly avoided plunging it in my eye but did smack myself in the eyebrow, requiring eight stitches, or the time when me and a couple guys were playing "chicken" with a lawn dart, and I got darted in my right shoulder. I have faint scars from both of these injuries to this day.

36. Do you love where you live? Portland? Yeaaahhh...Most days. Our house? Sure, I suppose. The corn was well beyond knee-high by the Fourth of July though, in our back yard. I do love the back yard.

37. Don't you just WISH you knew... what made people tick? I don't understand that ellipsis...It might be a transcription error. In any case, through a lifetime of observation and experience, I know pretty fucking well what makes most people tick. The problem comes in how exactly you go about dealing with them, and how honest you can be about the source of their problems.
I mean, some people (okay; lots of them) are pests of the worst sort, and oddly enough, it's because they wish to be relevant in the lives of others. Now, would my telling them that help in any way? Certainly not; and it's hard enough to talk to a pest at all and keep it short: if they feel that you've insulted them in some way, you'll be standing there two hours from now, trying to soothe their hurt feelings. No: tell them how much they're alienating everybody else. That'll get it done.

38. Who is your loudest friend? Oh you, The Internet.
No. George.

39. How many dogs do you have? Two. Here they are:

From left: Goofus, Gallant.

40. Does someone have a crush on you? If so, I am unaware of it.

41. What is your favorite book? Good God. Do you know me? If I start talking about this, we'll be here all day. A better question for me would be;
What books do you wish you had enough money to buy right now?
There's a new translation of Herotodus' The Histories that looks awesome. Also; I just found out that Robert Graves wrote his own version of The Iliad, and it's called The (anger? fury?) of Achilles. Oh my gaahhhd.

42. What is your favorite candy? Hm. Dunno. Salty caramels from Pix?

43. Favorite sports team? Don't have one.

44. What song do you want played at your funeral? Sheeit. If you know me at all, you know we'll be talking about this all day. However, somebody does need to remember to play "Across the River" by the High Llamas.

Write on o' yer own?

45. Sweet or Savory?


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A letter from a Flower to a Garden, or perhaps the Other Way Around

So, after the Fall Out Boy show at the Expo Center a few months back, we found a sealed envelope lying on the floor. Upon opening, we found a letter to one Trace Dempsey Cyrus, son of Billy Ray and brother of Miley. He seems to be the front man for something called Metro Station, who had opened that evening.

The letter was from a fan, and again, hadn't been opened. The fan was either a twelve year old girl or some adult with a wicked sense of humor. Let's read:

Thank you. Thank you and the boys for putting your fans before your fame. For everything.

('Don't feel bad about not being famous', I believe is what she's saying here.)

Thank you for signing my Outsiders book in November, page 149 right on Stay Gold Ponyboy. Thank you for that hug, after I gave you that picture I drew of you. Thank you for signing my glass heart with your name and re-signing it later that night because it rubbed off.

(And thank you Fan, for giving me some images in that last sentence I could really do without.)

Thanks for grabbing my hand, and singing to me. And for saying, "I LOVE YOU TOO BABE." I'm sure you say it alot, but unlike many other celebs, you, Trace, you mean it when you say you love your fans. Thank You

(Thine is the Kingdom and the Glory, Forever and Ever, World Without End.)

Your fame, everything you've accomplished, it was all on your own babe (heart symbol) Millions of people everyday, see you as the talented, sweet, strong, independent, inked, pierced, drop dead sexy guy you are...all over the world! Look what you and the boys have come to!

(Yesss Trace...Loook at your life. You thought that when you got all those tatooes and piercings, your fans might not be pre-teen girls. But deals with Satan are like that: tricky.)

I was a winner for "Be Our Top Friend". I was very first actually. Im so blessed! You don't know how that made me feel! (Heart symbol)

(It has been pointed out by sharper cultural commentators than myself that any boy band you could conceive of will find at least some level of fame, for a while, anyway. It's like a license to print money. Briefly.)

Also, on Stickam you left me a :] in my comments, that was amazing! You took time to send me that, to recognize me. Metro Station, you truly love your fans (Heart symbol) And we love you! I LOVE YOU TO NO END!

(Here we have come to a place of pathos. [Also, the first sentence wouldn't have made any sense at all in English as of -say- fifteen years ago. Ever think about that?] Anyway, it's nice that shit like that can make her day, and it's also sooo sooo very sad that shit like that makes her day.)

When I hear your music, I wanna be home in Alhambra, LOS ANGELES county. Back in California! I probably saw you, Trace, at that Burbank Mall ShoeStore or Mason selling pretzells. :)

(For starters, I gotta give her credit that 'pretzells' is the first spelling error I've found in a relatively lengthy letter. Secondly, imagine if this letter was actually written by a spurned ex-girlfriend/ex-bandmember who wants to really, really get under Trace's skin. Hey pretzel boy! Whyncha go back to Burbank?)

Then it says that she's '17 forever (heart symbol)', and that Trace is her 'forever shining star'. Then her name, cell phone number, and "STAY GOLD PONYBOY, STAY GOLD" in huge letters.

She name-checks an uncle in Texas who is a 'kickass tattoo artist'. "And if you read this and you're still in Oregon, let me buy you dinner!" and then,

"LOL. Whatever you guys want!" Hm. "Whatever"? And, have you noticed how 'LOL' keeps on being used in sentences where people couldn't possibly be laughing out loud?

Again we get the cell number. Then her MySpace page, and her Stickam page. Her gmail account. Her identity at both and Then there's this weird diamond-shaped design she drew, with the names of each of the band members represented in four facets.

Finally: "Trace, I'd be very grateful if you come with me to get inked for the first time (heart symbol) haha (heart symbol)"

Ladies: let's just go ahead and not put our personal information inside of letters that will almost certainly never find their way to your idols' hands, okay? I mean, this was found by a bunch of filthy, nasty stagehands with nothing but time in between gigs: you don't know us, girl.
And yeah, either you end up on that rented touring bus or you don't, you know?

But really this is mostly here as a historical document. There are many letters like this one, but this one is in my possession.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why We Suck

Oof. It's Donna Barstow!

I hadn't even heard of her until Josh Fruhlinger (also known as The Comics Curmudgeon, and also also known as Cartoon Violence) started making fun of her. Even then, I couldn't tell whether or not I was perhaps ridiculing a developmentally-disabled five-year-old (who had strangely been given a job drawing political cartoons), and maybe should stop.

But she's an adult of some kind, and the fact that she can't create a coherent one-panel narrative is graced and enhanced by the fact that she seems to have lots of time on her hands, and answers any criticism of her fine self first person. Like the picked-upon kid in grade school who finally just screams, "YOU LEAVE ME ALOOONE!", this doesn't make things any easier.
As a rule, she shows up and starts ranting a lot of underinformed things about the Fair Use doctrine, and starts threatening lawsuits and/or server crashes. Between her lack of artistic talent, inability to make a simple joke and propensity for freaking out in public, she serves as the poster child for Why Editorial Cartoons Are Stupid, basically.

How did I put that? Oh yes:
"How to make an already unfunny joke even less funny: have one of your unfunny strawmen attempt to explain the punchline within the context of the joke.
You can do this with anything. Two (generic people, animals, items) walk into a (bar, police station, the White House) and say, “Gee, (easily generalized-about group) are sure going to (like/not like) this (thing that is going on, or is not going on)!”

But did you follow that first hyperlink up top? I haven't been able to export it back to here, so it's only a link, but that's where she becomes a special case. More on this to come.

So here's exhibit A.

Donna attempts to make the most common joke known to humanity (possibly the most common joke told among primates): Men Be Like Dis, Wimmin Be Like Dat.

But she can't do it, because her reasoning apparatus has been compromised or something. For one thing, it's not an especially funny scenario, nor is it realistic. In what I think she's showing us here, these people are already dating (or at least he just keeps showing up and watching her TV). Despite this fact, he uses a phrase that probably a stranger/maybe a distant acquaintance/no one at all would use.

And then we note how insensitive the male beast is (muted trumpet sound effect)...

Exhibit B:

Does this or does this not look like something that a seven-year-old who has listened to their parents talking politics for half a minute might draw? I certainly did, when I was kid: I came from a family of newspaper people, and wanted to be thought Clever.

But what is the pistachio supposed to represent? What are the squiggly lines? What does this actually say about the specific topic under discussion?

It's almost a political statement. But not really.

Now this, this here's a political statement, I guess.
If you had thought before that perhaps Donna is one of those people who would describe themselves as Conservative, consider the name that she copyrights under, which is "The Opposite of Wrong".
So now I feel like it's not too cruel to call her dumber than Glenn McCoy. At least he can actually make a point, regardless of how badly.

You can feel here how there's an undercurrent of anger at something, but...There's at least two attempted jokes going one here, and neither of them work. Honestly: what the hell is the joke, as laid out by its author?

We're back to a gender critique of some sort. The caption, which isn't available here, was "Paging Captain Jack Sparrow".
This image originally appeared on doubleX, who should know better. So should Slate, and the New Yorker. Her shit is everywhere, and I'm wondering why this is. What could she possibly have on them?

The fun thing is, once you get beyond making fun of how retarded she is, the assholes on the left end of the spectrum start coming out of the woodpile. I mean, there is a special kind of idiocy that allows one to create a sentence like:

"Racist cartoonist Donna Barstow, who is here seen being responsible for racist cartooning on the subject of swine flu, has unsurprisingly dabbled in racist cartoons before."

Well, thanks for that. Then they go on to get all frothy about the stupid cartoon where she renders Barack Obama as a Chia Head. This cartoon, like all of her cartoons, is underinformed to put it nicely. Not living where anyone else lives, to put it another. But to immediately jump to 'racism!' is...Ah, 'typical', is what it is.

Even better? Late in the comment thread, we get to meet the face of Donna that one could describe as homophobic -or could they? Because that cartoon doesn't make any sense, either.
She says so herself:

"Am I being disrespectful? Or funny? Only an editorial cartoonist knows for sure. I was surprised when Proposition 8, here in California, got picked up by gays all over the country as a rallying cry. I thought it was a state by state thing. I mean, didn’t Massacusetts say yes? And maybe other states."

So let's see...You aren't being funny. I can say that for certain...And I guess that if you're unable to marry in California, you could always move to Massachusetts?

But let none of this deter The Womanist, who wrote this amazing piece of freighted wordification. She starts off by referring to our (demonstrably, I believe) brain-damaged subject as a "pearl clutcher", which is a term The Womanist came up with all on her own.

And so we start to see how stupidity and shit reasoning beget themselves. Donna has a job publishing things that seem so full of political import, but mean absolutely nothing, and seem diagnosable. Renee publishes pointless diatribes with some of the worst circular logic I've seen outside of freshman year seminar, and receives the approval of others who don't reason so well...Which may very well be most people. These particular fish just happen to love their purported victim status.

So, since I can't seem to find a copy of that cartoon that will allow itself to be dragged back here (it appears on her blog), let me lay it out for you:

A white man and a white woman are seated on a couch. They are watching a television that has an poorly drawn image that nonetheless is clearly supposed to be Barack Obama. The white man has a string of words emitting from his mouth. They read, “I can’t believe it’s been 100 days and he’s still standing. Do you think it’s like Reaper, and he made a deal with the Devil?”

The comic appears in the context of some stupid little story about how her favorite teevee shows are being cancelled, like 'Reaper'. Then she suggests that somebody already should have shot the President by now. Good fucking lord, Donna. Get help.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gin n' Platonic

Oh 'Strictly Platonic' section of Craigslist, why do you exist? Well, this fits the bill:

I found a wheelchair and I have some flowers I stole from the cemetery - m4w - 24 (SE PDX)

Yes, indeedy. Wanna push and be pushed, ride the MAX and take up too much room? Or, better yet, have a good time and not take life seriously? Srsly.

email me back, life's short.

** ** **

See? Direct, to the point, random as fuck and not specifically looking for sex, like the majority of the posts in this strange, confused section.

Perhaps it's just a place for the author of this one -simply titled "some exersize"- to go besides 'Rants and Raves':

I'm thinkin its time to get some exersize, maybe some runs or jumping rope? I feel like I need to be challenged when I run. Like a race. Anyone interested. Not so much in the racing...not trying to scare anyone off.

Perhaps you enjoy weird euphemisms, and have found a homophone for "assburger".

It looks like a romantic relationship that I was in is falling apart. That is why I am not seeking a romantic relationship right now.I would like some somewhat regular phone company to help me get through this time.

It was not my idea to end the relationship that I was in. The person that I was with found that relatonships are too demanding. I am sure that this is infact the case because I didn't really "demand " that much.

Things deteriorated to the point that it was impossible to do fun things anymore. She was somewhat of an "asperger" and from time to time it was pretty hard to read where things were going. Still. I cared about her very much.

I am a good and interesting conversationalist, and like to listen as much as talk. I would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in engaging in dialogue on modern realtionships or other interesting subjects.

There's lots and lots of these:

Hello ladies lonely looking to chillax and smoke some good chronic.. so if u wanna chill hit me up...

HELLZ 2 DA NOEZ OFFICER! I enjoy chillaxing as much as the next lady lonely, but I have the strangest feeling that this would immediately become something other than platonic.

Speaking of which...

I am 59 years old,relatively good looking,good job,good home,good company very good health,seriously looking for a decent woman 45-53 to get married,you must be classy,good looking must love sex,prefer blond with pale skin,must be able to come and live with me for six months NO Rent,No utility,i pay for all then both decide to get married,i know if you live with me for 2 weeks you want to get married.I love sex very much,love weekend trips,i workout every day and i am in a great shape.i am very caring,loving and very generous.Please NO provider,NO drugs.I will send photo through regular email not craigslist.let's get started and get married

Okay, so you're a little unclear on what 'platonic' means. Okay, you're a lot unclear. NO (health care?) provider? Despite his love for sex and weekend trips, he hates doctors? But yes, if you are as classy as he (and nothing bespeaks class quite like the word 'classy') you will endure a two week probationary period, after which you will both decide to get married. If not...Death?

So I am cuirous about who you like to date. Would you date me if you knew that I am nicer looking for my age? Remember I am not 18. I am hard working and monogomous. Would you date me if you knew I was a really good kisser? Would you want to date me if you knew I was a very good cook and keep my house clean and spotless? Would you want to date me if you knew I am not a gym bunny but take care of myself? Would you want to date a guy like me knowing probably once a week I would try to do something special for you? You know, maybe an extra nice meal, a sexy massage or have your bath drawn and tell you since you work so hard too you should do nothing tonight. I guess the biggest question is: Would you date me if you knew I was positive. Curious how many I lost with that last one. Wonder who will respond?

For one thing, the Socratic method isn't recommended here. It sounds like those rhetorical questions rendered by a non-English-speaker that show up in teevee commercials for 1-900 numbers: "How does sexy talk turn you on?", and "What do you like most about me on our first date? My smile?"
Matter o' fact, that is what's particularly wrong with this one: it asks too many hypotheticals. Yes, I hate an extra nice meal. I prefer my massages un-sexy, as supposedly you and I will just be platonic, and above all else, don't try to be cute about being HIV positive.

Friendship with aVoluptuous Fun Women - m4w - 30 (Bvrt)

Hello to all the fun Voluptuous outgoing women.

I am 30 years old, average guy, with no drama, and no baggage. I do enjoy going out watching all type of movies, going to concerts, watching all types of sports,going for a bike ride, walking around, drinking, dancing, and just enjoying time with family and friends durring a great sunny day at a bbq. I do sometimes enjoy giving back rubs, talking, and wearing lingerie around the house, and watching old episodes of tv shows.

I live in a nice area in beaverton, I do work, and I also have a car that I drive.

** ** **
(And he illustrates it with this. On a related note, the jpeg itself is named "maninbra", which sort of sounds like a fantastic Evil Villain Name, if pronounced a certain way, but of course still resolves itself to "man in bra" if you pronounce it another.)

Don't you just love how he sorta casually snuck in the 'oh, and I'd like to wear your undergarments' part of his missive? At first, after only a casual read, I had assumed that the picture is a suggestion for how you should look, should you choose to be his friend. But no. No.

I was with him until he got to the "old episodes of TV shows" part. Freak.

This one is laid out as though it were a song. Try to sing it! (I did.)

I would love to have a female friend to hike with!
I've been here 6 months. I haven't hiked yet.
I'm scared to hike alone.

I'm thinking of someone who has a deep reverence for nature.
kindness to animals. healthy food, healthy living. artsy/outdoorsy. indie music.
That sort of thing.
Not that we'll TALK that much during the hike. I adore the silence of nature, wild places.
But it's nice to vibe on a non-verbal level with the person you're hiking with.

I'm present, philosophical and psychological and an animist.

I have sturdy shoes and a backpack. I like day hikes or the idea of just a couple of hours.
I'm open and flexible.
If we got along, maybe we could go camping!!

DON'T TALK TO HIM! SHUT UP! HE'S ENJOYING THE MAJESTY OF IT ALL, GODDAMN IT! It's strange to see the word "animist" outside of an anthropology text. I mean, no one ever describes themselves that way, do they? They'd have to be awfully 'present' to do so, I guess.
And hey? When you're done with this long, subverbal day of fun, whaddya say we ramp it up a bit and sleep together in a tent?

From the department of 'This Should Go Well':

i want to propose to my girlfriend.

she's mexican. i'm not. she speaks spanish... i don't very well.

will you help me write something beautiful and poetic for her? i have a very special lady i want to impress... i'm kinda lost when it comes to the translation bit, and i want to sound like a native speaker.

i'm not really available today... but sometime this week or weekend?

will trade for drinks, friendship, and/or a cup of coffee.

By any chance, is your "girlfriend" a clerk at a convenience store? Is the cup of coffee you're going to pay me with from that convenience store? You're right. You don't very well.

looking 4 boy - w4mw - 100 (portland)

Date: 2009-06-15, 9:07PM PDT

write me if you know whats up.

(Seriously dude; I have no idea. That's all the more they had to say, god love 'em.)


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stupid Goddamn Pop Culture Goddamn It

Hey: Pajiba has a list up called The Other Best Movie Quotes of All Time. I feel that they're a little soft-headed over there these days, and their commenters tend toward feebleness, but at least this list did its job and produced an alternate list in my head.

For instance, their obligatory 'The Princess Bride' quote was "Inconceivable!". Now, we all remember it in context...But out of context it's just a word, hanging alone in the darkness. A line that follows it works much better, in more situations: "That word you keep saying. I do not think it means what you think it means."

But of course, that movie may very well have more quotable lines than all three 'Godfather' movies put together (I myself prefer to put on my best Andre The Giant voice and say, "I don't even excercise!"), so the whole thing is highly subjective, of course. They quote 'The Big Lebowski', of course (“I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”), but hell, how can you choose?

And of course, the 'Goonies' quote you want there is "It's our time down here!", not "GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!" Everybody knows this.

This being graduation season, teenagers everywhere are being asked to pick a quote that represents them. Quickly. This leads to some interesting choices, along with lots and lots of choices that surprise absolutely no one.
My nephew's recent graduation came with a fairly thick program, which I looked at and said, "Oh, you're coming home with me." This was the smart kids graduating class of the smart kids school, so the reading was pretty entertaining. Occasionally unintentionally hilarious, too.

I tried to break down the quotes by category, but quickly got bogged down in the definitions I'd arbitrarily made. But here's the raw numbers:

Dylan/Marley/Lennon: Nine quotes from these three warhorses of quotery.

Voice o' Authority who is Oft-Quoted: Twelve of these. I think a fair example is Abraham Lincoln. Another is Einstein, as we would all like to think that our flakiness masks our inner genius physicist.

Authors Teens Like: Fifty-Five of these. But I believe I was way too general with this one. For instance, Vonnegut counts, but does Goethe? I also may have included Shakespeare, since most teenagers are at least forced to read him in high school, and thus have ready-made quote material.

Shakespeare: Four at least. But I gotta go back and recount.

Bands We Like: Fifteen. Examples include Dave Matthews Band, Silversun Pickups...

F'n Comedians: Eight, with Mitch Hedberg popping up several times. My nephew picked Zach Galifianakis ("I would start a revolution, but I just bought a hammock.").

Inspirational Figure: Twenty-One, including both Mohandas and Indira Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Colin Powell...And I wanted a category for Helen Keller alone, but she only got one mention.

Terrible Pop Culture: Fifteen at least, depending on definition. I mean, the guy who quoted an Adidas slogan is definitely here, as is the guy who quotes a Nike ad. But does J-Lo. ("Do it well") belong on this list? Yes. Yes she does. But there are specific aspects of pop cult., and they come right after this...

Fortune Cookie/Bumper sticker/T-shirt: Three that I counted. Certainly there's more.

Fictional Characters: Twenty-Nine, and Albus Dumbledore in particular gets another Six all on his own. Dwight Schrute shows up pretty often, as does Tracy Morgan's character from '30 Rock' ("Live every week like it's shark week."). I believe I included both King Richard and William Wallace, because both quotes came from movies, as opposed to actually being attributed to them. Naturally, that wisest of fictional characters -Yoda- shows up at least once.

Asian: Eight. It's not a quotarama if we don't hear summa dat Wisdom of the Mysterious East (tm). Confucius and Sun Tzu, of course, but also Basho, which I thought was a nice choice.

Themselves, or their Parents: Five people did this. In each case, it was something obscure and specific to a moment only certain people will have in common. I may have accidentally thrown some of these in the next category, which is...

Who?: Eighteen of the quotees that I found I could not for the life of me figure out who the hell they were. Curiously, many of them said the same thing ("Is this real life?"), which is the kind of pseudo-deep thing the smart kid graduates of the smart kids school tend to say.

Anonymous: Fifteen of the quotes were attributable to no one. This is a popular manuver in quote fests, as it relieves you of being the millionth person to misattribute -say- "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," which I'm pretty sure John Cage said first, but I've seen attributed to at least ten more recent people.

Brrack!: Three kids quoted our current president.

Coooach!: Five kids quoted some sports figure, generally a coach.

Th' Bauble: In years gone by, the Bible would have gotten lots of play here. This time, it only appeared One time, and I'm not even sure if it's in the Bible. "He who hesitates is lost" is attributed solely as 'Proverb', but I'm not sure if it's in the Book of Proverbs. I just looked at that chapter of the big book, and got disgusted as usual. Basically, "Go kill everyone" is all they ever had in the way of advice in those days. Gross.

Political Figure: Twelve. This may be another one with overlap, since I definitely included Eleanor Roosevelt, but also included Abraham Lincoln, who is famous among quoters as someone who you call upon to prove your point for you, and make you right.

Artist: Six. Mostly Picasso and Dali.

Tupac/Li'l Wayne: Seven. I'm surprised that more hip hop artists weren't represented here, actually.

And for those people I couldn't really find a category for:

Herb Caen: One.

Art Buchwald: One.

Warren Miller: One. One.

And two categories I simply listed as...

Camp: One , (the 'Moulin Rouge' quote, I think) and

?: One. I gotta figure out which of these I was referencing, and what the hell I meant by either of these. Ah. Here we go: the one attributed to 'Invocation Committee, et al'

The quotes themselves should get an inventory of themes, which I haven't done yet, but let's say that some categories that suggest themselves are...

--Basically some variety of 'Don't ever stop'. A particularly virulent version of this, attributed to one Gaylynn Radke (and quoted by Tyler Radke) is, "Don't ever settle for anything." While this could be interpreted as a bold statement of resilience, I personally see it as the reason why most Americans are unhappy.

--'See what I did there?'. An example is "Why work for money when you can make money work for you?" For one thing, pseudo-clever. For another, why is this the motto chosen by someone so damn young?

--Sententious generalizations about life. This is almost all of them. Those that don't fall into the first category, that is.

--Lookit me! I'm kooky! One girl, quoting herself (for extra quirk points); "I have to turn this in today, or I don't get Skittles. Uhm...something IS a wonderful life." This is totally someone who will grow up and post a personal ad online where the headline is "Insert witty headline here," (which makes up the majority of them, actually).

--Misattributions. For instance, Portland '90's faves The New Bad Things are quoted as saying, "They've got the guns...They've got the numbers," which is not only a shitty quote for this particular venue, but also is almost certainly the New Bads quoting someone else, which they often did. And "Namaste" is not a quote, attributed to 'Anonymous' or not.

--Look Ma! No coherence! Lewis Carroll shows up several times here, and that's fine. But how do you explain the presence of "I am folded and unfolded and unfolding. I am colorblind," which is a god-awful lyric by god-awful band Counting Crows that also manages to not make a damn bit of sense.
Even Shakespeare can fall into this category: "They say the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may be. God be at your table." And "We'll put on those, shall praise your excellence." See kid, just because Bill said it doesn't automatically make it wise or relevant. Remember!

And next year, I shall be quoted, and the quote will be, "See kid, just because Bill said it..."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whatever You Say, Boss

I'm a person who truly hates a cute job application. Now, it's true that hard copy paper applications for employment are something that one rarely even encounters anymore, but for the sake of storytime (or nostalgia), let's say it happens all the time.

This bad idea is especially widespread in the service industry. Being a server in particular suggests that you must have an engaging personality -and hopefully you do- but there's still something genuinely obnoxious about having to prove it in an exceedingly contrived way.

Also, the spillover from this phenomenon can also cause inadvertent laughs. When I was applying for a position as a meat cutter at a local hippie-type food store, I declined to fill out the part of their application where I was supposed to draw a picture of how I felt the world should be, or something. I think the grim-faced, blood-covered smock guy who interviewed me that day appreciated not having to evaluate me on this basis, too. Made me wanna ask him: what was your picture like?

That's the shitty part; for as inane as the exercise is, I suspect that you will indeed be judged on your relatively light-hearted answers. I once applied for work in a bar that -for some reason- wanted to know what movie film I liked the best. I replied, "Oliver Stone's 'Nixon'," which was true at the time, but also quirky, you know? I hate to think that that wasn't why I got the job, as opposed to -oh, I don't know- not having boobs or something.

At another local eating establishment, and finally having had enough of this shit, I get asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
I already am grown up, I wrote.
"What is your idea of superior customer service?"
Whatever YOU say, boss!, I wrote back, knowing full well that this was why I would not get the job.

But this keeps happening. People want to talk baby talk about things that actually matter, and it sucks. You think that job applications are whimsical pieces of fun, because you're not looking for a job, Boss. Am I failing to be sufficiently cheerful? Maybe it's because I need an income, you sociopath, and you're toying with me.

Now, David Brooks last appeared here in these pages weeping about how mistreated the rich were, and how the rest of us are just straight up being mean. This time, although I have a wide selection of things to choose from, I think maybe I'll quote him on his sincere and fervent hope that a middle-aged Latina judge is capable of basic human delineation.

It's difficult to see what editors feel is acceptable to print, anymore. I mean, that which is demonstrably untrue, that which is patently false -sure. I've been seeing those my entire life.
But that which was written by one who clearly is residing in a universe other than the observable one here; that's kinda new. Dave weeps for the misunderstood rich, and now he'd like to talk about how he genuinely hopes that Sonia Sotomayor is a human.

In this wonderful piece of journalistic thinkin', titled "The Empathy Issue", a quick trip around Your Fairness There is afforded:

Right-leaning thinkers from Edmund Burke to Friedrich Hayek understood that emotion is prone to overshadow reason. They understood that emotion can be a wise guide in some circumstances and a dangerous deceiver in others. It’s not whether judges rely on emotion and empathy, it’s how they educate their sentiments within the discipline of manners and morals, tradition and practice.

Mmhmmm...Wait, so what did Salma Hayek do? Oh, okay: you're just kind of giving us a rundown of what perhaps could go wrong -or right- with any judge anywhere. In a highly generalized manner. So as to not be too specific about anything that might sort of make someone think you're perhaps being condescending to someone who isn't a white man. And, did any thinkers of other ideological bents ever think that? No? Oh.

First, can she process multiple streams of emotion? Reason is weak and emotions are strong, but emotions can be balanced off each other. Sonia Sotomayor will be a good justice if she can empathize with the many types of people and actions involved in a case, but a bad justice if she can only empathize with one type, one ethnic group or one social class.

Oh, brother! The Puerto-Rican brain, huh? That fiery Latin temper! "Multiple streams of emotion"! Lemme off this boat! Ooh! Tell me about the differences between emotion and reason again, Uncle Dave! And let me clean up that last sentence for you: "Anyone will be a good justice if... (et al)"

Second, does she have a love for the institutions of the law themselves? For some lawyers, the law is not only a bunch of statutes but a code of chivalry. The good judges seem to derive a profound emotional satisfaction from the faithful execution of time-tested precedents and traditions.

I dunno, does Nino Scalia have a love for the institutions of the law? Has anyone ever asked him? Why not? Because he's been a judge for most of his working life, and asking such a question would be a little Mister Rogers-esque? "Do you see the balloon? Is the balloon orange? Is the balloon a weather balloon that you've been working with for many years because you're a meteorologist?"

Third, is she aware of the murky, flawed and semiprimitive nature of her own decision-making, and has she accounted for her own uncertainty? ... Because we’re emotional creatures in an idiosyncratic world, it’s prudent to have judges who are cautious, incrementalist and minimalist. It’s prudent to have judges who decide cases narrowly, who emphasize the specific context of each case, who value gradual change, small steps and modest self-restraint.

'Semiprimitive' is about as close as David Brooks, Thinking Man's Conservative, will come to what he's really saying here. To wit: won't someone PUH-LEEEZE think of the children? He'd like you to know that a dangerous Ethnic is being considered here, and he's not so sure that They reason like Us. Or, to be fair about it, what he's really saying is: it's possible that she is undereducated on the nature of the human mind, and would fail to see the underpinnings of prejudice at work in her decision-making, which -again- I'm certain they asked Scalia about at his confirmation hearings.

The is pretty much like this too, in which he seeks to skirt around his central criticism (she's a crazy brown lady possible lesbian)with a lot of sententious ramblings about, oh you know, things in general. I note too that he got back on this topic a few weeks later. I haven't read it yet.

Thomas Friedman, on the other hand, isn't one of the New York Times' pet conservatives -usually. He's generally on the side of sanity and restraint, but that's pretty much what The Management wants. From you, especially. Let's look:

Weighing everything, President Obama got it about as right as one could when he decided to ban the use of torture, to release the Bush torture memos for public scrutiny and to not prosecute the lawyers and interrogators who implemented the policy. But there is nothing for us to be happy about in any of this.

Quite so, Tom. I mean...

After all, we’re not just talking about “enhanced interrogations.” Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has testified to Congress that more than 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, with up to 27 of those declared homicides by the military. They were allegedly kicked to death, shot, suffocated or drowned. Look, our people killed detainees, and only a handful of those deaths have resulted in any punishment of U.S. officials.

Yes, Tom, YES! Criminal acts! And they should be Not Prosecuted because...?

The president’s decision to expose but not prosecute those responsible for this policy is surely unsatisfying; some of this abuse involved sheer brutality that had nothing to do with clear and present dangers. Then why justify the Obama compromise? Two reasons: the first is that because justice taken to its logical end here would likely require bringing George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials to trial, which would rip our country apart; and the other is that Al Qaeda truly was a unique enemy, and the post-9/11 era a deeply confounding war in a variety of ways.

So again, Sanity and Restraint are called for on the part of the individual, though not nations. It should be the other way around, I've always felt, because as Dave points out above, people aren't all that rational. All the more reason for nations to be.
As to the usual "Rip our country apart" argument I've heard every time in my life that justice was crying out to be done, I'm gonna say the ripping has already long since been done, and maybe if we call a murderer a murderer in this case, we can actually learn something. The one way to assure that this keeps happening is to Not Talk About It.
The other argument, of course, is that these aren't really people we're talking about here, so even though we admit that torture doesn't even work...C'MONNN!

The rest of the article more or less can be broken down to the myriad ways in which Al Qaeda are pretty much suck-ass human beings. And while this might be true, we still admitted up front that torture doesn't work, so maybe we should just kind of shelve it as an idea, huh?

But it's really not for you and I to say, and that's my point. These two gentlemen work for the Boss, if ever there was one, and they are actively trying to change the subject. That is pretty much all they ever do. I mostly preserve this here for future generations: Here are some examples of the shitty explanations and rationalizations we had to listen to. Pity us.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Leaving EO

"The desert spring is something very special. Most beautiful things are short-lived. Suppose a sunset lasted forever- we would scarcely notice it. The glory of dawn passes as we watch. Utmost perfection in a rose exists for a day. So it is with spring in a harsh and forbidding setting. The air is not yet filled with the summer dust; it is sweet, clean, and bracing; distant hills are magically close at hand so that every person owns two telescopic lenses; desert flowers tentatively offer their gentle and beguiling paradise to passing insects; all of nature is tasting life to the full." - E.R. Jackman, 'The Unshorn Fields' from The Oregon Desert

We were lucky enough to be in the desert in spring this year. Lookit some photos.

Here would be the cliffs just north (?) of Frenchglen, in the Diamond Craters area. I really should have taken more pictures on this entire journey, but I was driving more or less constantly, and when I wasn't trying to figure out where the hell I was, I was contentedly grooving on the beauty of the landscape. I was too busy experiencing things, man, okay?

Here is a closeup of the same cliffs. Note how they kind of look like tiki heads. Were I in a different phase of my life, I would have spent all day here, just exploring and photographing.

Not now though; I'm all macro and shit. Furthermore, I'm still trying to figure out this new, fancy digital camera.

A typical field south of Burns, along the Silvies River. Shot taken randomly from out the open side window of the Meep.

Again, no establishing shots, no nothing. Just random stop n' shoots, when the impulse struck. One day soon, I shall be back to documenting in a finer style, and yes- makin' art, just as soon as I'm as comfy with this thing as I was with my various analog cameras.

The insects of the low desert are legion, and famous for being so. Last time I was in these parts (over twenty-five years ago, at Malheur Field Station, which is right south of this pic), we were issued this clear, viscous liquid that smelled like chemical death itself. It kind of prevented me from getting stung hundreds and hundreds of times.

I don't remember what it was called. Maybe it's only available down there.

Another shot from the same road. With the converging lines I like so much in a picture. I believe this was an attempt at capturing the beauty n' contrast of a red farm house set amid endless blue sky and a carpet of purest green.

And again, probably a month from now, most of the contrast will be entirely missing from the region.

Something I forgot to point out about Burns is that they have responded to ongoing economic stagnation by having most businesses fulfill two or three purposes. It gets creepy at times, how ubiquitous it is. My favorite place for breakfast in this town, for instance, was quite happy to make me a croissant sandwich, which I enjoyed. As I sat doing so, a local woman came in, and was greeted with, "Hello Evelyn. Coffee? Do you want me to test your blood sugar?"

After a fine breakfast at the deli in Burns that serves a good croissant sandwich and also will offer to test your blood sugar, we headed north, into the Malheur National Forest. I kept wanting to take pictures, but I also wanted to get where we were going before it was completely dark out. There was smoke hanging above the distant hills, and the Willie station wouldn't stop playing that damn song by Billy Bob Thornton's band, which is about Willie. Brown noser...

Then up through Seneca, with our first views of the Blue Mountains, which contains the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. This is Strawberry Mountain, as viewed from a ridge northeast of Prairie City.
Prairie City doesn't sound like an especially pretty place -just based on the name- but it really is.
It reminds me of all those old gold mining towns that dot the slopes of Colorado's Western Slope, (which Bee has already noted elsewhere) and I shoulda taken pictures.

Art! A shot of our reflections in a pillar in Baker City, the Queen City of the Mines. We had wandered lazily across the high mountain meadows, through Austin and Whitney (both of which are largely un-populated, though not entirely), stopping at Sumpter, which hosts an enormous outdoor flea market, and serves as a living reminder of exactly how destructive placer mining is to a landscape.
Bee fell in love with Baker, and with John Day, Canyon City...Eastern Oregon at large. On one hand, I can cynically reply, "Well, try being there longer than overnight..." But it's true: beautiful old buildings set in a stunning natural mise en scene seems like just the thing for the yearning soul. I too wish that a whole bunch of people with money and interesting ideas would move to places like Baker City.
Am I one of those people? Maybe one day. It's true that I rarely attend live music any more, or watch much avant-garde cinema in theaters, so why live in a city? Well, can't really commute six hours as a stagehand, and urban areas still score higher in the decent restaurant department.

On the other hand, I've been practicing to be a cranky old fuck for much of my life, and think I would kinda fit in with a place like Baker.

The atrium of the Geiser Grand Hotel. The place was easily as beautiful as the advertising suggested, and due to the efforts of one Barbara Sidway, we were updated from a wonderful room to a wonderful room with a parlor.
Barbara has a nifty web-crawling program that is, I believe, a feature of Google, and sends her an email whenever anyone mentions the Geiser Grand at all on the web. Needless to say, but I'll say it again, Thanks, Barbara.

I am, as has been mentioned before, a person who loves old things. The bar alone at this place enchanted me, but add in a writing desk and a library, and you got me. The parlor made me wish we were hosting a bunch of people.

The joint is staffed by a bunch o' smart ass ladies in their early twenties. Generally amusing, sometimes nowhere as entertaining as they think they are. That said, they're still more engaged and professional than your average person working in the Columbia Gorge, where we spend much of our time.

The view from our window. Note that the former hotel -probably more recently an apartment building and currently empty-called The Antlers, described itself as 'Absolutely Modern'. Another sign on the west face of the building elaborated on this a bit, but some of the paint had been obscured over the years, and it sort of seemed that 'modern' could be defined as "we will set your children on fire", or something.

The next morning we tooled around town for a bit, reluctantly hitting the road west. Stopped in Pendleton, stopped in Boardman, checked the changes. Rolled into Portland circa sunset, picked up da Thug Dawgz.



Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Unleashed in the East II: Fuck Eastern Oregon

I guess I forgot to mention that the people in charge of highway 205 (not to be confused with Interstate 205, of course) have sort of decided not to take care of you in any way. Amenities are few and far between, and even an oasis like Frenchglen feels like it can tell you that bathrooms are only for customers. This is how I came to be shitting in someone's driveway.

Well, not 'driveway', and not really 'someone'. It was one of the many gravel access roads leading up to property owned by Roaring Springs Ranch, and as there was no one at all around, not driving, not farming, not nothing, I felt okay doing it.
But of course, if for some reason someone had come along, I'd be the bad guy. This is what we, the outsiders do when we come to God's Country: We Shit All Over It.

I was listening to somebody singing the praises of Fort Worth, Texas (something I never thought I'd hear) on the Willie station, and I thought; "Well, there's too much Texas-sucking going on on this station, but that's not really all that surprising and hell, let 'em have it. Let people have things like that."
Strangely though, what it got me thinking about next was my own mixed feelings about the half of the state that I called home for much of my young life.

I was part of that rural brain drain thing y'know that they all keep talkin' about. The first time I was offered an opportunity to leave eastern Oregon, I took it with only tentative glances back. This lead to several years worth of the same question every time I went back to visit; when are you coming back? Oh, 'never', was my reply, and this made people just stare blankly. Lots of people leave that place, and almost every one of them I've seen goes back. Except the queer ones. They largely can't.
And I might add that this is a milieu in which many of my peers had never even left the county, and sort of viewed it as a badge of pride. So after we finally got it established that I was not going to be returning to eastern Oregon, the message then became oh, so you think you're better than us?

For one thing, non sequitur, asshole. For another, maybe I am, but that's not the issue. The question really is; what incentive was I ever given to stay? Widespread dislike of/threatening behavior toward me because I was a smarty pants who made everybody else look bad? Casting nasty little aspersions on me because I dress funny? Just the plain old 'staying is the right thing to do because everybody thinks so'? (Cue the voice of Janine Turner from 'Cliffhanger', shrieking at Sylvester Stallone; "SOME US STAYED!" I like to use this line when something unremarkable has happened.), or Loyalty for Loyalty's sake?

Let me explain something to you, EO. For all your lovely vistas and -yes- occasional quiet, homespun wisdom, there is a reason that thinkin' folks abandon you. There is this 'to be simple is to be an a baby is to be an angel' thing going on with you (though certainly not just you) that is to be avoided and discouraged. It's that good old American bullshit about how the best reaction is the first one, before you've thought about it at all, and how to think about things too much renders them effete and impure. How it is at base a good thing to be incoherently angry all the time, and to be a screaming child the rest of your miserable fucking life, consistently blaming all those people out there who think they're better than you, and are Elite.

Well, back atcha: what could be more elitist than thinking that you know the thoughts of God? That you are somehow better equipped to judge who and what is immoral, due to your baby-like simplicity? That it is right and good to attempt to be an arm of God's judgment and vengeance here on Earth (which is specifically warned against in the Bible, by the way)?

Above all else, how culturally arrogant it is to socially enforce the most closed-minded responses to all issues, in lieu of actually listening to other people for half a fucking second. On one hand, this is a remarkably lovely part of the state, on the other hand, fuck eastern Oregon; I know of which I speak.

But of course, those who -on either side of the Cascades- would seek to further divide us as a state also deserve my most heartfelt contempt. Hey Portland: thanks for buying things and shipping them everywhere! Couldn't have done it without ya', love, eastern Oregon.

Hey the-rest-of-the-state: thanks for living places we don't wanna live and doing things we don't wanna do, which leads to the production of things we need to
survive. Honestly, couldn't have done it without ya', love, Portland.

So there. We all gotta get along. The thing about it is, when we're talking about things like water, the social niceties quickly fall away. The people who first moved to the farthest southeastern corner of Oregon did so because the government was giving away land there. So people, doin' like people do, moved there in droves. Generally speaking, five or ten years was all it took for them to see that a small farm just wasn't going to work, and they left.

But some of them STAYYYED! And before too long, the government began massive irrigation projects that helped bring water to places like this. Technology in general improved, and finally you could at least kind of grow things in the desert.
Flash forward to the present day, and what few people stuck around are beset and besieged with a whole bunch of fees and bureaucratic bullshit because they're tryin' to make an honest living tilling the soil. On one hand, bureaucracy truly can be excruciating, and law tends to overlook the human aspect. Some of the regulations are genuinely arbitrary seeming and maybe even weirdly punitive.

Furthermore, I think I can accurately say that they aren't well served by their political representatives. Those would generally speaking be Republicans, who are far more likely to wander around shrieking about teen pregnancy and how there's gay people and stuff than to maybe make life better for their constituents. For instance, most people in Harney County are pretty up against it financially; they're barely making it as it is, and still must fork over the same amount of certification fees for everything, it seems that the rest of us who want to work in Oregon do. So...Yeah, if you could put down your picture of an aborted fetus for a minute there, maybe you could help out the farmers, yes?

But: the fact that so many of the locals respond to all this with ideas along the lines of 'well, screw fish; nobody cares about fish, or makes a living off them' is just goddamn precious. Or they'll get all mad at lawyers and environmentalists, while forgetting that -if left to themselves- they will not bother taking care of their water sources and will gladly kill each other rather than share.

We had the pleasure of debating this with a bar owner/auto body mechanic. It's not like we were sitting there talking about our political/environmental views, either; it's just that after forty-eight hours in a town that small, everybody is wondering what the hell you're doing there.
And dude, when he was not buying strange drinks for Bee (what kind of redneck enjoys a fucking Creamsicle, anyway?), just wants to yell. He will not listen, and I don't mean ' reason'. I mean just the basics of what it is we actually do with ourselves. He's too incoherently angry, too tired of the rest of the world...Understands deep down that we're not the problem, but still, likes to be loud, and dislikes having to comprehend things.

He also grew up forty minutes or so from where I did. I asked him why he left, and he muttered something about all the goddamn Mexicans. When asked for my reasoning, I just said, "I just had to get out of eastern Oregon."