Double Day

Lay awake in bed from 3AM till 7AM and you finally say whatever screw it and start the day. No aid or detriment of drugs to blame here just biochemistry, mental over stimulation, Circadian rhythms — what a mystery.  Morning smells like morning where you are and everywhere it’ll smell this way.  Good.  Crisp cool and you always feel like you want a hoody.  It feels like it just rained.
There’s a printout on the kitchen table saying our gas will be cut off on September 15th due to a $1,446.41 outstanding bill.  You have lived here for not even one month and the bill is made out to someone not you nor your roommates nor anyone you’ve ever heard of so you ignore it because its still August for two more days and you need milk.

Run across to the Bodega.

“Morning.” people say to you.

“Morning.” you say in return.

Affirmations passed back and forth.  Yes, it is morning.  That’s right.  Say it out loud and convince yourself.

You suppress the urge to say it’s been morning for over seven hours and the cheery folk are just showing up for the nice parts.  Insomniac jealousy, that.

In the bodega the radio plays a station you’ve never tuned into and you remind yourself you’re awake by hearing it now.  Oh yeah.  Things are going on as if everything fit a definition of normal.  The radio is still a real thing.  People still use it, for real.  Its another reminder like one of those of tearaway day calendars, little disposables to mark the uniqueness of an otherwise pedestrian occurrence.

Something about the word quotidian.

There’s a sort of stomach ache that comes with not getting sleep.  Another symptom of insomnia like how caffeine only helps you maintain function rather than boost it, yawning with your mouth wide open and not noticing, itchy eyes, keep stretching limbs.

But that sun can make up for it.  The stillness of pre-8am.  It’s like your skimming everything as you move through it.

You get back to the kitchen and make breakfast and there’s left over grease and seasoning in the pan but no paper towels so u get added flavor.  The sunny side up eggs look like a Dali painting and its gonna be a weird day.

You finish breakfast and you shower you go outside your eyes aren’t sagging too hard yet, non wrinkled clothes, nothings caught up and won’t for a bit still and you just gotta make it to around 6pm to reset your schedule so until then you gotta stay awake, you gotta try and pretend it’s just another day, and now you’re privy to smiles and nods of solidarity:

“Morning.”

“Morning.”

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®
(Archived on August 30th, 2012 – 127 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn NY 11211)

The Falling Man

The Falling Man–So much happened so fast.                                In the midst of the atomic age, JFK challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, and within a decade, the space program did. The moon landing inspired a Cold War generation to pursue science and engineering in the name of innovation.  Kids who watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon grew up to launch satellites, create the internet and build the International Space Station.  It’s 50 years since JFK, and even as we retire the Space Shuttle program alongside its memories and triumphs, our curiosity [1] is still wild enough to take us to Mars.It’s the Age of Terror and double-dip recessions now.  Everyone wants to know exactly where our money is going, and why.  What else can we do?Just eleven years after we watched one suited man fall to Earth [2], a global team of experts sponsored by an international corporation [3] put a new man in the sky.  Up.  Way up.This man [4] was wearing a suit, too — a new suit — one that caused him panic attacks and claustrophobia in the years leading up to his historic fall.This man was all alone.In his ear was the voice of an older generation.

“All right, step up on the exterior step. Start the cameras. And our guardian angel will take care of you now.”(Previous record holder Joe Kittinger, now 84, a retired Air Force colonel)

The man in the suit stood on a small platform facing outward, suspended at the foothills of the heavens.  He could see the curvature of the Earth and the continents unsullied by borders.  He stood between the blue glow ocean and the sheer void of space.  He stood there in silence.Nature thwarted one previous attempt.  Another, skipped because of panicked behavior.  [5] But this time, the man stood alone, above the Earth, while back at home we watched from indoors, behind locked doors.  Many of us watched through glass screens, some listened through headphones.  Some people held their breath with hand over mouth and some of us were all by ourselves.The man said something.  It was garbled and incomprehensible, but he said it.  Then, the man in the suit jumped and fell towards the Earth.We all fell.For minutes, we sat silent, the foreign commentary muted, and listened to his breath accelerate as our hearts did the same.

“There was concern early in the dive that Baumgartner was in trouble. He was supposed to get himself into a delta position – head down, arms swept back – as soon as possible after leaving his capsule. But the video showed him tumbling over and over.”  (Jonathan Amos, BBC)

The most dangerous part of his fall was the spin — too much can disorient a person, or worse, force them to lose consciousness.  But the man in the suit couldn’t feel the wind so he had to calm his nerves and think logically, which way am I spinning, how can I counteract this, focus, adjust.The man plummeted for minutes until he re-entered thicker atmosphere, deployed a parachute, and his fall turned into flight, and then a soar, and then a glide.We couldn’t see his smile beneath his substantial headgear.  We waited until he had his feet on the ground, his suit off, for him to tell us what he had said up there before he jumped:  [6]

“I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the whole world could see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.”  (-Felix Baumgartner)

The action itself spoke loud enough to break the sound barrier. [7] It was a testament to the human will and proof of our kerosene blood.  Instead of asking ourselves what we can’t do, we’re shifted to ask ourselves what we will do.  And if there is a fight with fear we will win it.We will jump from space, just because. [8]This time, we made it.Times have changed.–Footnotes:[1] “I want to send a robot to the moon with a camera and I need a few billion dollars” is a hard sell no matter which political climate you’re pitching it in.[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Falling_Man[3] Red Bull did a good thing here.  The good-natured press they generate is the type of advertising money can’t buy.  Good attracts good.  Stratos is an example of having cake while also being able to eat cake.[4] Felix Baumgartner sounds like a cat name.[5] “At one point in 2010, rather than take an endurance test in it, he went to an airport and fled the United States. With the help of a sports psychologist and other specialists, he learned techniques for dealing with the claustrophobia.” (NYT 8/15/12)[6] Dude, imagine if he just… died.  It would have been a genuine tragedy.  We would never have known what he said, Red Bull stock would have taken a steep dive, and the groundhog would see his shadow and declare six more years of terror.  But  that was never going to happen and Red Bull invested heavily – they bet their equivalent of the economy on success.[7] Actions speak louder than words blah blah overcrowded volume of news commentary uh-huh whatever — the sound barrier thing is poetic to me because our parents may say what they will about the quality, but our generation’s tunes are undoubtedly the loudest.[8] “Engineers considered aborting the mission when Mr. Baumgartner’s faceplate began fogging during the ascent, but he insisted on proceeding and made plans for doing the jump blind.”  (NYT 8/15/12) … Man, he would have done it blind.


Additional Sources:

http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0903-SEP_FALLINGMAN#ixzz29RXZENJrhttp://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article3567921.ecehttp://www.stuff.co.nz/world/videos/7817432/Felix-Baumgartners-record-setting-leaphttp://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0903-SEP_FALLINGMANhttp://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/us/felix-baumgartner-skydiving.html?_r=0]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19943590The Falling Man, a photograph by Richard Drew for the Associated Press

Can’t Hardly Wait

It was Saturday night going on Sunday and the streets of Williamsburg were crackling with rain and laughter.  I was in a fourth floor apartment by myself watching the second half of Can’t Hardly Wait on HBO.  I recently turned 27 and this is how things are now [1].

For people of similar age, Can’t Hardly Wait was making the rounds on HBO/Showtime when we were just entering high school.  I think there’s a cycle to these things so each group of 12-16 year olds gets access to a pseudo-guide before beginning/defining their own trajectory — and, later, this new group will become the old group and pass on their own pseudo-guide.  Dazed and Confused.  Fast Times.  American Pie.  Breakfast Club.  As a youngster, you see these stories and characters as frameworks or almanacs.  As veterans, you see them as splintered pieces of your experience.

In Can’t Hardly Wait, I of course identified with Preston (Ethan Embry) — an excellent iteration of the goodhearted, shy, idealistic main character in these things.  Believing in Romance, big ‘R’, is pretty impossible to do out loud at any age, and rarely harder than when in high school.  Wit, no matter how layered, often goes unnoticed  by everyone but the wit-user themselves (Aman…duh!) and a quasi-supernatural belief in songs and Pop Tarts as real-life omens is a tough cross to bear even if you are attending a religiously-based high school.  So when Preston affably showed his shyness, his reticence, his delusionary pursuit, and ultimate action… he sold it.  I bought it.  I found justifications or hope or whatever.  I doubt I’m the only one [2].  He’s a great main character.

The thing is, on a plot level (I’m assuming you remember it and I am spoiling it here), if Amanda doesn’t show up at that train station at the end, Preston is still going to be fine.  We know that because of his spiffy red coat, his Vonnegut workshop, and his smiling goodbye with Denise Fleming (…is a tampon).  And we know because Preston, well, he actually tried [3] for what he wanted, and while he failed miserably it was for reasons largely out of his control.  He still learned something and we, the audience, believe, as Preston does, that he’s learned and grown from the previous night.

When Amanda does come to the train station, but begins to walk away — Preston could still be fine leaving, too.  What makes him a superb main character is that he acts on what we all know, demonstrates how he’s learned from his mistakes — he chases after her and defies fate’s ‘one chance’ (as proclaimed by the Angel from Will and Grace in Act 2).

I channeled Preston all of high school and most of my first year of college.  I was not tough enough to be Mike Dexter, not nerdy enough to be William, nor confused enough to be Seth Green.  But now at 27 and firmly out of education’s social clusters, I retrospectively identify with the whole lot.  Because while high school movies are often themed upon the unfairness of labels, and the need for their dissolution (while simultaneously playing into them), the good high school movies are about identity, coming to terms with our own, and how that illusory word — identity — spills outside of the containers we’ve set aside for it.

And from more of a theatrical perspective, the thing is, everyone in Can’t Hardly Wait is confronted with change, and as the plot resolves itself, a certain reward and justice system is apparent [4].  For someone seeking parables from his fictional narratives, damn, that was a lot to think about at age 14 and it’s a lot to think about now.

In the interim 14 years since Can’t Hardly Wait‘s release, I have been (1) the egotistically-blinded and misguided Mike Dexter, (2) the goofy, peripheral watermelon obsessed Jason Segal (“Preston?  He wears t-shirts… sometimes.”), (3) the identity-crisis-stricken Seth Green, (4) the regretful and confused burn out Jerry O’Connell/Trip McNeely, (5) the far-too-serious lead singer of Luvburger, or (6) even the memory-obsessed Melissa Joan Hart.  These labels are cultivated on screen not because such purely stereotypical one dimensional characters exist, but because they’re the seeds  in all of our psyches at various points in the years to come post-graduation… or something.

In high school and always it can seem impossible to wait for things — but if we continue to place any faith in our elders and their films and stories (as we have before and I think all still yearn to), then we believe in a warm and forgiving justice at work, and we believe as well in the chance for radically transformative life events [5] which could be waiting behind a Barry Manilow song, a stripper angel, a Pop Tart, a teen movie on HBO, and it’s up to us to take it from there.

Shakespeare once said basically we’re all actors in a 1990’s teen comedy and if we want to win the object of our desire (and our audience) we need to be open to that, we need to wait for it until the moment comes when we absolutely shouldn’t wait at all.  That’s high school.  That’s Romance.  That’s it.

Footnotes:

[1] Writer’s block.  New town.  The ennui of whatever.  Earlier in the week, I’d heard a 50 year old man on guitar sing about “desperately trying to hold on to what [he] believes,” and I have heard that line a hundred different ways but I always assumed it was about shielding beliefs from outside attack… until I aged and realized it’s a battle with your new self versus old just as much or more so.

[2] Trivia:  Mark Hoppus wrote my favorite song on Enema of the State — “Going Away to College” — after seeing Can’t Hardly Wait.

[3] To fulfill any technophobic quotient or criteria I’ve created for myself, consider the impossibility of this movie’s plot if smartphones/social media are introduced, not even considering such devices’ identity scrambling properties, so please go ahead and try not to weep and feel old.

[4] In what might-but-not-for-sure be the first case of me using the phrase ‘exception that proves the rule’ correctly, note that in the movie Mike Dexter makes a noble sacrifice to William, the nerd, in the end, and seems redeemed, but the final scenes reveal he does not change at all, and the text epilogue seals his fate with this in mind.

[5] Writer-Director Deborah Kaplan’s movie prior to Can’t Hardly Wait was A Very Brady Sequel.  Big step up, right?

Wayne Worlds Collide

WAYNE WORLDS COLLIDE

A)n outline to an essay I started, originally titled “WAYNE WORLDS COLLIDE… The Hipster Economy of Cool and its effects on/interplay with American neo-capitalism (post Regan) as demonstrated in feature film Wayne’s World and its sequel.”

B)y mattz brog

[begun july 1st, 2011, 9:19 PM , abandoned july 2nd, 2011, 1:43 AM]

 

 I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.

-Wayne Campbell

 

THESIS

In the beginning,

Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar represent the archetypes of the first “early adopters” of new millennium trends which now define the socio-political landscape.

 

FRAME

In the early 21st century aka now-ish, a certain upheaval is occurring and modern society’s value system is being flipped on its head.  Some graybeard intellectuals have taken this as a big surprise — but that’s because they are old and everything is moving too fast and cheeseburgers used to be a quarter and the country is run by godless socialists and also by kids much, much cooler than you.  Yeah this has been coming, has been around, kind of played out now, and just discovering that fact yourself does not mean it wasn’t there a billion years ago, aka 1994, plastered throughout surewhynot Wayne’s World.

 

STUFF

A) The repeated demonstration of obscure triviatic knowledge, political ennui, and pop-culture-wherewithal as hierarchy-establishing forces

  1. Wayne’s impressive grasp of the Cantonese language, complete with regional dialect accent, is the clincher which wins over Cassandra after their meet-cute.
  2. Their lack of ‘trying’ leads them to success, and that sort of anti-ethos now grips a wide demographic in a target market (18-whatever, with $); however they demonstrate sincere effort when it comes to certain core anarcho-socialist values.
  3. Asdlkf
  4. This is only going to make sense if they’ve seen the movies and remember them [format?] research outlines
  5. no one is going to read 2k words in one sitting anymore maybe not ever again

 

We fear change.

-Garth Algar

B) Eschewing Money

  1. Wayne’s World, the show within the movie, debuts on public access. It achieves fame on public access from word of mouth. Even after a stint on cable (thanks to the nefarious Rob Lowe), they go back to public access and still find success. This is a brutal uppercut to the established modes of transmission and creative politics at large, maybe.
  2. In one particularly eerie bit of social commentary, Cassandra laments the birth of CDs as the dominant format — “I’ll have to buy everything all over again,” she moans. Wayne, meanwhile, pops in another 8 track and gains points in our book not for the camp-style of his possessions, but for the passion and ahead-of-the-curve understanding he displays —  The song has the quality, not the format, especially when everyone in the car sings along.
  3. Their mocking of corporate sponsors (ex: Wayne calls noah’s arcade founder a “sphincter boy” clandestinely during his first prime time TV slot) is really a demonstration of free speech in a post-FCC era. Wayne goes on to write — not say — of his sponsor, “He blows goats…I have proof” and “This man has no penis” — and those tweet-sized comments get him fired from his own show. This is less of an allusion to McCarthysm and more of a forecast of a coming era of censorship-via-funding (and thusly lack of funding). There’s maybe a parable here about publically owned companies here that borders on sedition or um something about tweets starting revolutions all over the world I don’t know, revise, delete?
  4. Their rejection of mega sponsorships in-the-story, while cheekily mocking huge corporate players such as Reebok, Nike, Doritos, Pepsi, Abunchofothers who paid for the privilege, exposing the how-whore-can-you-go mentality driving their ad departments. Confronted with this stark, stark, head-slapping lack of morals, Garth counters with Buddah-esque poise, wearing Reeboks from head to toe, opining: “It’s like, they don’t even care…”

 

C) A de-emphasis on looks

  1. rob lowe (sodomized at the end of the first movie)
  2. kim basinger (manipulative, criminally-plotting, eventually jilted by Garth who dismisses her as “mental” despite his own questionable thought processes)
  3. garth’s ‘foxy lady’ fantasies come true, he sexually conquers Kim Basinger, and he achieves self satisfaction despite shunning contemporary hair fashion vis a vis effort and mega-corporate products (as well as those that test on animals)
  4. wayne’s cup runneth over *schwing* despite the mullet and generic clothes. While dodging the maniacal love and dedication of his redhead ex girlfriend, Wayne bags the ethnically-gifted Cassandra on his first try. His prodigy-like grasp of the Cantonese language (itself a veiled metaphor some of the more unteachable aspects of music as a field of knowledge) succeeds, while Rob Lowe’s maybe-better-er understanding of the language’s nuances fails because it’s simply too polished. Wayne trumps these and other obstacles again and again, all with a minimal education and the full-time responsibility of entertaining a wide fanbase with a public access TV show that is basically a skype session with lower Chicago.
  5. In both films (more self-referentially in the second) we are left to assume that in this fictional world the embodiment of a person’s character is greater than his social status or outward appearance.

D) the progressive stance towards race and diversity

  1. Cassandra’s Cantonese father (a traditionalist and assumed neo-communist) at first battles Wayne with swords and kung fu but ultimately gives him respect, and his daughter’s hand, all due to Wayne’s ability to empathize with his future father in law’s culture… and ultimately imitate it… ultimatelyultimatelyultimately Wayne’s proto speak transcends lingual boundaries and finds ways to interact with a diverse character set on each individual sub-cultures own terms. He does this without pandering but also without offending, because at the end of any interaction there remains Wayne’s guffaw-ing grin and bird-chirping stare. He’s harmless. That’s the cover which Wayne, Garth, and their legion of seditious insurgents use to outwit corporations and consumers alike.
  2. The native American spirit guide in Waynes World 2 (WW2) pays homage to not just a spiritual/openreligion theme, but to certain unacknowledged demons of America’s aggressive industrial revolution past.
  3. Russel and crew member engage in heterosexual bonding to such an extent that it becomes a total rejection of hyper-masculinity by making it a balls question.  You afraid to admit you love your friends, dude?  Sha, right.  The bolditude of that dare was part of a new era of the male-liberation movement, a safe place where otherwise super-gay activities and several terrible sitcoms could finally jailbreak their gender roles and fly under the banner of Russel’s immortal quote “platonic love can exist between two grown men.”
  4. Fix formatting here don’t know why its doing this.

E) The de-emphasis of mainstream media — foreshadowing the decline of the Record Label, the death of the Television industry, the birth of the Internet as institutional taste-maker, and the democratization of fame

  1. Cassandra shuns music video (allusion to death of MTV?) for her band Crucial Taunt (continuing the irony principle with such a name) in order to play Waynestock
  2. The plan for Waynestock is to get 2 people to tell 2 people… forecasting not only the coming music festival corporate cashgrab bonanza sponsored by Heineken and their world famous $12 beer, but also the social media powerhouses which would follow 15 years after the movie was released.
  3. Their decision to use radio to promote waynestock, putting their own commercial-speak on a bandwidth usually reserved for music, on a medium reserved for ads.  Hostile takeover of dinosaur institutions.
  4. Wayne’s shameless use of a Morrison impersonator (via dream, via actor) to promote his non-existant event. Following the ghost of Jim Morrison’s advice “if you book them, they will come,” one could see a forecast of Kickstartr, as well as a firm summation of the coming era’s “sell it now and create it later” attitude which birthed 2 stock bubbles (dot com and mortgage) and nearly crashed the human economy + value system as we know it.

F) Domestic terrorism performed with stunning irreverence

1. Prior history of run-ins with law, outspoken disregard for justice system

Benjamin: Do you have a lawyer?

Wayne Campbell: Yes. Ahm, no. We’re between lawyers right now. You see, our first lawyer screwed our affairs so bad.

Garth Algar: That’s right. I walked right to that office – that’s what I did – and I reached across that desk and I grabbed him by his big fat head and I said “Listen, man. I’m not going to jail for *you* or for anybody.”

2. Garth casually hacks into a satellite system and is able to route the signal from the broadcast into the television set in Sharp’s limo (paradigm shift of power as Garth, the unemployed, disgruntled citizen armed with a laptop in Aurora, Illinois, is able to hack through the United States government’s hardware/software and manipulate a corporate mogul’s private data feed for a separate agenda)

OK… First I’ll access the secret military spy satelite that is in geosynchronous orbit over the midwest. Then I’ll ID the limo by the vanity plate “MR. BIGGG” and get his approximate position. Then I’ll reposition the transmission dish on the remote truck to 17.32 degrees east, hit WESTAR 4 over the Atlantic, bounce the signal back into the aerosphere up to COMSAT 6, beam it back to SATCOM 2 transmitter number 137 and down on the dish on the back of Mr. Big’s limo… It’s almost too easy.

-Garth Algar

3. Wayne exhibits disturbing bouts of jealousy in regards to Cassandra, and, in the sequel, this ratchets up to him physically spying on her with elaborate technology and teams of masquerading agents in costume. Can draw lines to 21st century relationship boundaries, social-media-stalking, UK tabloid wiretap scandals, and the ideals of global-forced transparency via WikiLeaks.

 [Wayne opens a door to show a bunch of spies in training]

Garth Algar: What are you gonna do with these guys?

Wayne Campbell: Oh, nothing really. I just always wanted to open a door to room where people are being trained like in James Bond movies.

4. fix formatting dont know why its doing this still

MORE) More

1. Say something aboutmusic influence maybe.

2. 2nd movie gets self referential so can talk about the almost complete redo of The Graduate montage that takes up several minutes of screen time, or the Charleton Heston thing could tie to guns/NRA rabbithole but better to stick to the acting line scene which is pretty good gimmick but later boned out in Austin Powers so much that it’s hard to appreciate now

3. can also go into Garth’s paralytic reaction to being on the air alone as this is a feeling many young americans uhfeel today when staring into the maw of the infinite audience at their fingertips on twitter, facebook, blogs, etc, best not to think of this any longer.

Wayne Campbell: Well, that’s all the time we had for our movie. We hope you found it entertaining, whimsical and yet relevant, with an underlying revisionist conceit that bullied the films emotional attachments to the subject matter.

Garth Algar: I just hoped you didn’t think it sucked.

 

CONCLUSION 1

In maybe conclusion,

Wayne and Garth are dangerous puppets of some postmodern, bloodthirstily anarcho-socialist agenda, one whose greatest weapon is caring and more importantly a lack of caring. Therefore, And but so What positive we can draw is that the things Wayne cares about, he really cares about. And while those things are few — a best friend, a jamming babe, and some tunes — he defends them, commits to them — they’re all he needs.

Wayne Campbell: What the hell’s going on? I lost my show, I lost my best friend, I lost my girl. I’m being shit on, that’s all, shit on, and you know what really pisses me off-

[Camera pans away]

Wayne Campbell: Wait, where are you goin’? OK, things aren’t that great, but I’ll get ’em back, OK?

 

CONCLUSION 2

As rumors of a second sequel abound one wonders if the Economy of Cool can handle a WW3. Wayne and Garth aren’t cool because they ignore or criticize — they’re cool because they don’t care about being cool.  That sort of highschool-epiphany is the paradox which both validates the idea of another film and destabalizes their integrity  with each added installment in the franchise.

Just do you, man.

Ah yes, it’s a lot like “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. In many ways it’s superior but will never be as recognized as the original.

-Wayne Campbell

 

CONCLUSION 3

But believe this and try not to hurl: a reboot is coming, it will happen, it must happen, because anywhere there is a fan base, there is an equation to calculate how much money they have, a study to inquire how much said fans would part with, a projection as to what tie-in sponsorships and products can be jerked out with as little care as possible, and a bottom line budget to promote produce and corpse fuck the franchise by turning out another turd in the hopes of feeding a few hungry Rob Lowes and thereby weakening the value (marketed or intrinsic) held within the early movies, the original story.

“It’s like they don’t even care.”

[restarted 216 am may 30 2012 and ‘finished’ under duress 436am may 31 2012]

REVIEW: The Land of Make Believe

I was/am stressed out.  So I’ve been reviewing vacation destinations.  Taking my budget into account, I settled on Land of Make Believe.

I had a difficult experience, even though I did my research first.  There were a lot of rules.

The Land of Make Believe is located in Hope, New Jersey.

Chris, from Nutley, New Jersey, assured me that it was “the best amusement park for kids within 100 miles of NYC” and “no one touches your stuff there”.

But I wasn’t about to put all my faith-eggs in one New Jersey basket.

I had to go to Pennsylvania to get the truth.  Saylorsburg.  A woman named Lois.

This is what Lois told me:

“Bad story: We climbed all the way to the top for the water slide, when they told my grandchild his bathing suit was not a bathing suit – and made us walk all the way back down. Had to buy a different kind of suit. It worked out – but what the heck!!! Can’t they ‘screen’ for that before you climb all the way up. It was really hard on the kid and grandma was pretty angry!”

I was pretty affected by this.  It is, indeed, a bad story.  But I wasn’t ready to dismiss the Land of Make Believe just yet.

So I sent Lois a message:

Dear Lois,

I wish they COULD ‘screen’ for that sort of thing.  I really do.

But I can’t help but wonder about your pre-trip research.  They have a website.  You’ll see there, in blue and white, they make a pretty big deal about what they think a bathing suit is and is not.  They even bolded and increased the font size on the phrase “Our Definition of Bathing Suits is Final” – which would hopefully draw your attention back to the paragraphs above.

I don’t want to harp on you here, Lois, but reading is important.  Especially for a grandmother!  Do any of your kids have allergies?  Did you know they use peanut oil in several of the foods served at The Land of Make Believe?

It’s got to be traumatic for your grandkid to get this ‘wet’ for something only be turned away for his grandmother’s reading skills.  Reading is not skimming.  Reading is a complete action that must include audience participation – aka thoughts translating into informed actions.  Without this added effort from you, The Land of Make Believe – and your life – may never amount to much more than a series of ‘bathing suit’ problems.

Best Regards,
Matt Zbrog


That felt pretty good!  Really got my rocks off.

I was satisfied with classifying Lois as an illiterate lunatic, and Nutley Chris as an inside expert.

Tickets were around $24, which felt like an okay amount, given all the cool rides and the free parking.  I’m pretty sure they wanted that per trip, however.

But when I went to pay, I noticed a problem.

Method of Payment:  Cash or Discover only. We do NOT accept Visa or Mastercard, due to their policy on consumer fraud.

I re-read that sentence a few times.

Maybe Lois was onto something after all.

I did more research.

Colonel Corn?  Jenny Jump?

The house of cards tumbled down.

Even finding the hours of operation for The Land of Make Believe looked like a word problem:

Open for the public WEEKENDS ONLY starting Memorial Day weekend (including Memorial Day Monday) thru 2nd weekend in June.   You know so kind of like Open for the public DAILY from the 3rd Saturday in June thru Labor Day. The Park will also be open on the weekend after Labor Day.  GPS Coordinates are maybe sorta: Long – W 74º 57.542′ Lat  –   N 40º 54.122′  No Refunds! No Rain Checks!  [lots of talk about bathing suits]   We use PEANUT OIL.  NO ALCOHOL Permitted in Park.  Know what I mean Just 2 miles from Route 80 exit 12 in Hope, New Jersey, 354 Great Meadows Road – It’s just Route 61! Blah Blah Blah you know?


I didn’t want to believe it, but it was obvious.

I wish I could go back in time and tell Lois how I feel about her now:

Dear Lois,

I apologize for my earlier message.  I was frustrated about several other unrelated aspects of my life, and that frustration bubbled over and oozed onto you, and your grandchildren.

I often forget that when I critique someone else, almost all those critiques somehow point back to me.  I rarely take my own best advice.  I’m sure you understand this well, Lois, as wisdom comes with age.

I am trapped inside the dynamics of language these days, and I admit I don’t know what a bathing suit is anymore, either.  The words ‘credit’, ‘discover’, and ‘hope’ have all taken on a very bizarre meaning – turned into the words ‘visa’ ‘cash’ and ‘newjersey’.

Orwellian, right?

These are frightening times to raise a grandchild.

I think the ‘owners’ of The Land of Make Believe are scheming bastards, and should be replaced.

Best regards,

Bathing Suit.

5 Things I Love About L.A. [Bonus Material]

Brian’s blog yesterday gave a Michael Vick-like view on dogs.  Many animals expressed disapproval.  It’s okay.  Sit.  Stay.  Listen.  You’re in for a treat.

THE REASONS

1.  My Building feels like a dormitory for troubled youth with a propensity for creative behavior.    At any given time, at least one apartment is crackling with activity – but never someone’s TV.  If I want to see a DJ work on her next mixtape, a chef prepare her recipe list, a band jam before tour, or a horticulturalist plant his next strain – uh, then I… go do that.  I use my knuckles to double-click on their door.  While being there, I inevitably learn something about their human experience, and thus, something about mine, which adds to the experience.  We chat, with our mouths.

2.  The Beach – I live 50 feet from the sand.  I’ve always lived in close proximity to the ocean.  I can’t live without it.  You hear it all the time.  Waves crashing, the volume scrolls up and down randomly.  The whitewash rolling across itself in the background like white noise or Rice Krispies (sp?).  The water and the sun change people’s moods.  Everyone here is on vacation when it’s sunny, especially the people who sleep in their shoes.  I deal with a lot of stress indoors, on screens.  I don’t deal with any outside.  I don’t take smoke breaks so much as reality breaks.  Ten minutes from my door, in the sun, I’m a different person.  Gasp of air.  I usually meet an actual new person, too, because I smile at people.

3.  The Boardwalk is as much of an entity as the beach.  It is a creature that sleeps like the sun.  It has moods.  I wake up to the sounds either Hendrix on loudspeaker or a live, acapella version of Lil Wayne’s ‘ Six Foot Seven’ done by the Jamaicans on the boardwalk.  ‘If it’s sunny, it’s summer.’  Clack of clay wheels on pavement – carts and skates.  This is Dogtown and we have our own economy.  The skeleton is made up of pot collectives and tattoo shops – our population is highly docile, but dedicated.  We live in peace, we will defend ourselves.

The boardwalk dresses up differently all the time.  Ads.  Spraypaint.  Murals.  Graffiti.  She changes clothes constantly, but she’s got perfect taste.  She’s art.

4a.  The Alleys (Day)

My first love was film.  They’re shooting all the time here.  Even though I don’t watch many, I’m always walking through a set.  Lighting rigs.  Actresses in sundresses.  Director screaming cut.  PAs funneling traffic and escorting the way-too-real-people out.  No one minds the disruption, because the industry pays the city.  Locals, housed or otherwise, consider this fair, because we all enjoy the irony of an expensive shoe stepping in a smelly pile of shit.

Speaking of which, I rewatched Richard Kelly‘s Southland Tales the other day for the first time since it came out.  I generally like everything I watch now (because of the scarcity), but the fact that I am in 50% of the scenes (just 4 years later) made me enjoy it tremendously.  I can relate to JT, SWS, and TR that much better now.

4b.  The Alleys (Night)

My part of the city is 100 years old.  That might as well be a million to me.  It’s haunted.  This place has been counter-culture since the 60s.  Time stopped here.  We won.  An ordinance ‘allows’ people to sleep in certain areas.

Example:  I take the dog for a walk at night.  There are areas I can’t go.  The local population gets territorial around winter.  They’ll defend themselves.  They have secrets here and you can get into trouble if you don’t notice things.  There’s always something going on.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse, they say [first rule i’d take out, by the way].  I can’t offer much advice, but I look someone in the eyes.  Like a fellow Canadian, they just fucking know.  And so do I.

There are severe anthropological explanations for the diverse population’s interpretation of this – BUY MY BOOK  (purchase/press link pending).

5a. The Streets (Night)

Graffiti all over.  Never used to know what it meant till I moved here.  That font is so hard to read.  It gets taken down so quickly.  You know most of them are love letters?

They use chalk on the ground a lot.  It’s washed away by morning.  Used to be messages for the people without phones – now it’s propaganda or ads.  Getting crowded.

5b.  The Streets  (Day)

There’s no parking, anywhere.  This is good for me because I usually do not have gas, but I enjoy using my feet.  Crosswalks slow me down, and I haven’t jaywalked since the last time I got arrested for it (May).  And I can’t afford the ticket, but I like the city’s pace.  She knows when I need to stand there, do nothing, and just listen.

The streets themselves are cracked, severely.  I have tripped here before.  There is dog shit everywhere – not everyone picks up on it.  That’s okay.  I am functional enough to not step on shit that is directly in front of me.  Don’t be mad, it was probably a stray.  I like dogs and have met several here – each has a very distinct personality.  Not a single one leaves their shit out in the street w/o securing it in plastic.

CROSSWALK.  Stop.

Go.

Bonus!  The Sky

I also enjoy the sky.  Great sunsets.

Don’t you hate when the sky is overcast, the color of rotting cottage cheese?  Whites and grays.  Bumped with stucco clouds.

Sometimes, often here, there are no clouds, and in those instances, I remember the earth is round.  Well, I remember that I remember the earth is round, if that translates.  26 years old, I still find that concept mind-blowing.  Right up there with the constellations.

When it comes to talking about my home, I need to set ground rules, or I’ll never shut up.  I learned that a long time ago.  I’d talk about the weather, but I’m going for under 1,000 words.

Broke Game

Being broke is like jail with no free meals.  It’s a physical and mental torture.  And, like most painful events, it is an opportunity for tremendous personal growth.  We all handle it our own way.  Here are some of my tips for playing the Broke Game.

PHYSICAL

The twangs of true hunger mess with your head.  You can’t survive without a plan.  Make your plan quickly, before you lose brainpower.  Budget.  Make strict guidelines for what you are and are not willing to do to yourself.  After this, you are no longer allowed to be picky.

  • Eggs, pasta, rice — you can live very cheaply for a long time.  Only eat when you have to.  To clarify — Those first stabbing pains in your stomach are a total bluff.  The hunger is trying to intimidate you.  You have hours.  The pain takes a break, eventually, so don’t tap first.  I have survived for 4 days/nights on 1 bag of brown rice, 2 eggs, peanut butter, and a half sleeve of stale saltines.
  • Apples are cheap, hunger-assuaging ways to up your blood sugar.  USAID and other leading charity organizations believe peanuts are the key to eradicating hunger in Africa — forever.  Do some research.  Your palate has rich taste.  Knowledge is free.
  • You are not going to be eating much meat.  You are not going to be eating much anything.  Adjust.
  • There is going to be a very serious bitter taste in your mouth at some point.  It may sound poetic — but it is very real.  The lack of flavored foods in your diet, as well as the lack of sugar or carbonation, will leave a nice ashtray coat along your tongue.  This will decay your mood, among other things.  Get sweet mints if they are ever offered.  Check your medicine cabinet for any left over cough drops.
  • At some point, you may consider eating dog food.  You have either been this hungry before, or you haven’t.  I will be upfront with you here.  The afterburn is what’s going to get you.  Burp up murder.

MENTAL

The hardest part is not complaining.  What I do here is totally surrender.  Yes, I’m broke.  No, I can’t do anything about it.  Yes, I will survive – that’s the plan.  Okay.  What now?

  • First, I think about who to ask for cash.  I let my stomach curdle about that for a while.  Everyone else is hard up, too.  I rub my temples and remind myself, “I’m 26 years old.”
  • I stare at all my DVDs, books, and record albums.  Each one cost several days worth of food security.  I find myself mentally murdering the past version of my self that bought two copies of JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’.  Perhaps I can boil one down into a nice paste.  I stare at the clothes in the back of the closet — What’d those cost?  Go on, let in the self-loathing.  It is okay to think like this — for a little.  It’s not you, it’s the shame and worry talking.  Lurking in your stomach, growling — hunger stalking.
  • I continue to assign new values to the things I own — but now, to the things I love.  That bukowski book, which was leant to me, is now worth 3,000 matt value units.  The speakers are 14,000.  Under my bed, a bottle of vitamins one month from expiration might be a lifesaver.  I don’t have any expensive toys, but I am suddenly a rich man.
  • The word ‘cherish’ has supernatural significance in the 21st century.  At some point in your Broke Game, the fridge will not look as empty.  Is that a box of old pasta back there?  What’s that worth now?  Cliff bar from last July in an old backpack… Manna from heaven.  There’s a reason why Jesus, Buddah, and Mohammed found epiphanies isolated in the desert.  Tempting Devil, get behind me, and take your $199 iPhone and stick it up your ass. 
  • When the ‘cherish’ effect starts to happen, you are probably on your way back out of the darkness.  Make a thank-you list credits reel.  This will occupy all the time in the world, if you have any left.

One day, hopefully, you’ll have some money again. You’ll almost want to turn it away at first — because if you have it, you spend it.  But don’t deny your luck.  Don’t worry.  You’ll be broke again.

Thanks for playing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for my grandmother, Toronto Dominion, loud speakers, good friends, my own kitchen, new pens, warm clothes, peanut butter, bukowski poems, running water, socks with holes, a brown dog, being broke, a job, a soft chair to sit in, my parents, my bed, and Canadian Thanksgiving.

Eat Cat

There is an overpopulation of cats.  Neutering is expensive and perverse.  These are tough economic times.  Look to Darwin.

In both suburban and metropolitan areas, cats are plentiful and easy to hunt.  They are fast, but can be outsmarted.  If you’ve played Mousetrap, you are ready to go.  Eating cat is cheap, delicious, and rewarding.

Look at how much fun we're having!

It is preferable to catch them alive.

Once you’ve caught your first cat, your gut instinct may be to try and place it in a boiling pot of water.  This is exactly what the cat wants you to try.  Don’t.  If you have bathed a live cat before, your scars should remind you that this is a poor idea.

First, it is important to gain the cat’s trust.  Put a hat on the creature.  Talk to it in a baby voice.  Cuddle.  Keep it in a confined space.  This is a test of wills.  At some point, Stockholm syndrome will take over and the cat will be yours, purring as you baste its skin with another layer of marinade.

Feed it regularly.  Fatty foods high in Omega-3 are best.  When the cat’s stomach is bulbous and the coat is glossy, you are ready to prepare your meal.

There are a number of recipes.  Use your imagination.  I have prepared cat tacos, cat sandwiches, and cat cereal.  My friend Hank enjoys cat smoothies and cat burgers.  We once roasted a cat — it is important not to pre-heat the oven in that instance.  The cat will sense danger, and react.

Cats contain several minerals with holistic properties.

How rare or well done you like your cat meat is entirely at your discretion.  Cat tempura carries a gamey crunch.  Cat sashimi is for the advanced palette.

You can remove the fur with a filet knife or leave it on.  Try it both ways.  Think of it like a fig.  If you decide to skin your cat before eating (there are many ways to do this) MAKE SURE YOU SAVE THE FUR.  It is perfect material for mittens and slippers.

The bones have utility, too.  The skull makes both an excellent pencil holder or a classy ashtray.  A candleholder is not out of the question.  Be creative.  Channel your muse.  Use all parts of the buffalo.

Cat cuisine is something you can really sink your teeth into!

Once you have the basics down — hunting, brainwashing, cooking, carving, cleaning — feel free to express yourself.  The art and spirituality of cat eating is as deep an ocean as you wish it to be.  Invite your friends over.  Share the gift of cat with another.

Occasionally, you may come across a militant vegetarian who will lecture you on the cruelty of cat cuisine, perhaps handing you pamphlets describing how evil you are for feeding yourself cheaply.  In that case, explain that plants have a right to exist just as we do.  Tell them to take their disgusting tree flesh dollar bills and go buy tofu at Albertsons.

Bon Appétit!

I Watched The Matrix On LSD – Send Help

It’s a beautiful summer Friday at the beach and I want to do something on drugs right now.

I should point out that in this post I am 100% condoning drug use.  If you want to go skydiving or street-luging, I support that, too.  Euthanasia?  I won’t stop you.  I am very pro-choice when it comes to dangerous or dumb activities.

To demonstrate:  As I pondered that last paragraph and marveled at its shortsighted logic, I looked up to see a man walking down the sidewalk.  He was typing on his phone while shouting into a Bluetooth headset.  He looked like a crazy person.  “HEY DUDE, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT STREET I’M ON RIGHT NOW!”  I didn’t say anything to him.  He kept walking.  He kept typing.  He kept yelling.  I watched.

THWACK.  CLANG.  FUCK!

He slammed right into the street sign for Brooks and Speedway.  He learned a valuable lesson about where, and who, he was.  That sort of epiphany is painful in the short term, but tremendously beneficial in the end.

After all, our protagonist had been properly briefed on the hazards of walking.  He knew the potential side effects better than most Viagra users.  And yet he walked!  And failed.  Perhaps, in time, he can heal his psychological trauma and walk again.  The whole world could benefit from such a heartwarming story of the Human Spirit.  I believe in him.  I believe in us.

With that preamble out of the way, and the moral statute of limitations exceeded, I confess that I have been under the influence of LSD on precisely one occasion.

I was freshly 21 with a voracious appetite for 1960s American History.  On a fateful July evening in Irvine, a small breeze gusted through the palm trees.  The moon was full.  Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked.  The breeze picked up and sent a small piece of paper gliding directly into my yawning mouth.  My roommate, Phillip, burst through the door.  He told me that the SAME THING had just happened to him.

We ran to the internet to ask it what to do.  The internet told us we had been poisoned by an extremely strong dose of LSD.  The onset was irreversible.  All we could do was brace for impact.

Luckily, our fanatical love of 1960s American History meant we’d already spent over 80 cumulative credit hours studying and researching the physiological, psychological, and spiritual effects of this culture-defining drug.  If you took into consideration all the extracurricular research (Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Ken Kesey, et. al), then our knowledge of what to expect was immense.

Neither of us died.  It was very educational.  I “get” Pink Floyd now.

We only went crazy once.

We made a mistake.  Our decision to watch The Matrix was a poor one.  Somewhere about a third into the movie, I felt a brain spider on my frontal lobe.

“I think something is going to be shown to us,” I said to Phillip, “Something that we don’t want to see.  I think it’s going to be on that screen and I think it’s going to involve… a bug.”

It was hard to explain things.  Despite having seen The Matrix a dozen times, neither of us could remember specifics.

“A… bug?” Phillip asked.  And at that precise moment, Agent Smith put a gigantic, slithering metal bug into Keanu Reeve’s pasty outie belly button.

I literally ripped the TV’s power cord out of the surge protector.  That was the most dangerous activity of the night, but it probably saved our lives.

Next thing I knew, Phillip and I were in the kitchen.  It was very, very bright.

“We’re going to eat ice cream,” Phillip said.  “And it’s going to make us happy again.”  His voice was stilted, but I could tell he wanted to believe it.  I wanted to believe it, too.

“Where does the ice cream come from?”  I asked.

“The head of the fridge.”

“You’re just going to take it,” I guffawed, “from the brain?”

“We’ll see if it lets me.  While I do that, you find us the tools to eat it with.”

“Where are the tools?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Phillip said, not-sarcastically.  “Ask a cabinet.”

I spun around and tried to figure out which swirling face to grope at first.    I opened a cabinet.  Then another.  Each was EXACTLY like the portal to John Malkovich’s brain in that John Cusack movie, but with more slime.

“Hurry!” Phillip whimpered behind me.

“I’M TRYING!” I screamed.  “BUT EVERYTHING I TOUCH JUST MELTS!”

It was true.  My third eye was open wide and pulling focus from the other two.

“That’s just the drugs, dude,” Phillip said, voice like a hostage negotiator.  “You gotta look past that.”

That phrase sobered me up.  A rush of energy!  I felt like Neo when he finally saw The Matrix for what it is.  I knew what to do.  I knew which drawer to look in.  I knew which handle to pull!

I yanked it open, with great expectations.

It was empty.

I was wrong about everything.

My reality shattered.

I spun around.

Phillip was staring at me, eyes the size of Jupiter, mouth and face covered in chocolate goop.  In each hand, he clutched a snowball of brown ice cream.  An open container sat on the counter and watched the whole thing unfold.

“Well?” Phillip sputtered.  His teeth were chocolate coated, too.  “What did you find?” he asked.

I was happy again.

I yelled as loud as I could, “THERE IS NO SPOON!”

The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

I love everything about TV.

 

The great educator.

 

We have the power to put absolutely anyone on TV and have them argue inane political points.  What does the actor who plays Doctor Oz have to say about the mortgage crisis?  What does the actress who plays Nancy Grace, an over caffeinated member of the PTA, have to say about a trial in Florida?  We line up the wackos, shove them in front of a camera, and let the public decide if they like what’s said.  We, the audience, pick our allegiances as if we were picking sports teams to root for.

 

What nutjob really identifies me as a person?

 

Over 8 million people choose the cranky, argumentative old man at the back of the church — playing the role of Bill O’Reilly — to capture the hearts of viewers everywhere.

 

Several million others choose the crazy bird man behind Circle K — in the role of Glenn Beck — to inform them of the ever-changing state of reality.

 

The problem is, these award-winning performers are being cast against type.  They’re arguing about serious, life-or-death issues.  They’re chimpanzees debating the moralistic cost of the post-industrial revolution.  They’re arguing about the Debt Ceiling.  They’re trying to convert you Steelers fans to Ravens fans.  No one’s going to switch sides, here.  When’s the last time you argued someone out of being a democrat/republican/conspiracy-theorist?

 

“Just cut public welfare spending and no one gets hurt!”

 

They try so hard.  God bless them.  I love to hear these maniacs fight to stay in character, back and forth.  I especially enjoy watching their shows with judicious use of the mute button.  Here is what I’ve learned by watching the Bill O’Reilly sitcom “The Factor” and Glenn Beck’s dark episodic drama, “Glenn Beck”:

 

a)     Superhuman intellectuals (“liberals”) are out to murder, sodomize, and rob the hard-working american public – this is probably the result of illegal drug use and stand-up comedian Al Gore.

b)     Bill and Glenn look like a goblin and an orc, respectively.

c)      The price of chocolate is being manipulated by a nefarious secret society, headed up by a shape-shifting creature known as George Soros who drinks the blood of hedge fund managers.

d)     Illegal aliens in America (aka the guys who work at Burger King) are plotting to take over the American economic and judicial system.

e)     The man in charge of America was born on the continent of Africa, and this is a very bad thing.

f)       Devout religious zealots are plotting to murder random civilians in a quest to acquire 40 virgins – they walk among you.

 

Not all of which are untrue!

 

But seriously, Billy, what’s your day-to-day life like?  Do you wake up happy to be alive?  Do you look over your shoulder on the way to Starbucks?  Do you “keep an eye” on Miguel at Jack in the Box?  (I would, because if he has any sense at all, Miguel is going to spit a gigantic loogie in your Sourdough Jack)  Do you scan the television looking for demonic socialists propagating their left wing Stalin-esque agenda?

 

Sounds exhausting.

 

So I invite you and Glenn to come visit me in Venice Beach.  I swear, none of that shit you’re terrified of is happening here.  The only thing you have to watch out for is the crazy man near Radio Shack who smells awful as he mutters about the price of corn into a mailbox slot.

 

I MUST SAY, GENTLEMEN, I GENERALLY DISAPPROVE OF YOUR VULGAR LANGUAGE!

 

What really grinds my gears is the wanton cursing that goes on in these shows.  They’re using the C-word again.  The last time we got C-word crazy, millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Central Americans, Cubans, and North Americans died.  Hundreds of screenwriters and directors and actors were censored.  Not all of whom were C-words, most were just assholes (ex: Bay of Pigs).

 

GOD HELP US ALL if these circus performers ever start using the t-word.  Because if the birdman and the goblin start accusing others of TERROR (definition: causing scary thoughts) then we’re really ass-backward and up against the wall.  Who knows how many will die in the process.  We’ll be OK if we don’t let the lunatics decide our next move.

 

OSAMA IS DEAD!  It only took ________ innocent lives!  That’s _____ less than the number of innocent people Osama killed or would kill.

 

I genuinely do not know the numbers.  I am bad at math.  I won’t even attempt to calculate an equation.  It’s way more complicated than I understand.  I’ll leave it to the more educated.  I’ll argue about what I know best, words and lunatics.

 

The problem was never that we didn’t know things were fucked up.

 

The problem is  that we don’t know how to unfuck things.

 

That’s okay to not know.  There are smarter people out there.  So Bill, Glenn, Jon, Stephen, Nancy, Anderson — all you bastards — be fucking nice when you talk about other people.  Tone it down.  Watch your mouth.  We don’t know what to do about it either, and that is all right.  Take one deep breath.  Enroll in a sailing class, you never know what you like until you try it.

 

I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.