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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: October 2-October 16, 2004

Tuesday, October 12, 2004:

Today has been a good day thus far! During my break at work, I walked a couple miles and feel invigorated for having done so. Granted, I would absolutely not have done so if my destination hadn't been Schoolkids Records to pick up the new Camper Van Beethoven album (which is awesome: simultaneously playful and chilling), but it was invigorating nonetheless. While at the record store, I discovered that Hem has a new album out as well. I bought it too, because savings accounts are for chumps. (It's also good. Not as life-changing as Rabbit Songs, but still gorgeous.)

Then I had a good-natured discussion with Robin about Sean Penn's open letter to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and the subsequent interview with the South Park auteurs in Salon. I, being the fanboy that I am, took Trey and Matt's side. Robin, not so much, but it was really cool because it's not often that two disagreeing parties can discuss something semi-political while still respecting the other's point of view and not flying off the handle. I like discussing things with Robin for that very reason. I do agree with her most of the time, and I think she's a brilliant woman, but on the occasional... um, occasions when we don't see eye-to-eye, we're able to talk calmly about everything and better understand where the other is coming from, which is really the most important bit of any such discussion. I'm lucky to have her as a friend.

When I got home, I discovered that not only had the new King Missile album finally arrived from half.com, but I received a package from Bev! She and I decided that it would be better for her to mail me a bunch of toiletries and clothes for her visit rather than checking them at the airport (less hassle from The Man that way), so she sent a bunch of socks and stuff- because her sock fetish is rivalled only by Adrienne's- but also lots of stuff for me to play with. The most immediately captivating item is an old etiquette book she found that's copyrighted 1901! It's entitled Etiquette for All Occasions, written by Mrs. Burton Kingsland, and it promises 525 pages of hilarity:

"In the early part of the evening a man should ask the privilege of a dance with his hostess or her daughters and those who are assisting them in receiving, and then proceed to ask others, writing his name on their cards or programmes opposite the dances accorded and registering the ladies' names on his own.  Where dance programmes are not used, a man merely says in the conventional phrase, 'May I have this dance?' or more commonly, 'May I have the next waltz, Miss -----?'  Cut-and-dried phrases are going out of fashion, with sometimes a little loss to courtesy.  The manner should therefore supply it.  The lady accepts with a gracious bow and smile, and rises at once if the dance is in progress or about to begin.  If the invitation is for a future number, she may say, 'Thank you, I shall be very glad,' in a tone that is cordial but not effusive.  She can hardly refuse unless her programme is full, but may plead fatigue."

Lots of fun to be had here.

Also, I talked to Jess this afternoon, and she informed me that her awesome new job at the Eastern Michigan University radio station today resulted in her getting free copies of the new albums from Nick Cave, Elliott Smith, and Le Tigre. (The radio station plays only jazz and blues, but gets promo CDs from lots of other genres, which results in freebies for Jess!) I'm really happy for her, because she's been on a record-purchasing diet for at least a year in the interest of affording food and rent and whatnot. She totally deserves this embarrassment of riches, and the fact that she landed this job is a point for karma.

And because I'm so cheerful, here's a new mix for you all to assemble because it's important to emulate me if you want to have a life after college. It's entitled Authentic Hobo Pants, and it goes a li'l somethin' like this:

1. Keren Ann: "Sailor & Widow"
2. Sloan: "The Other Man"
3. A.C. Newman: "Miracle Drug"
4. Pet Shop Boys: "Can You Forgive Her?"
5. The Venus in Furs: "Baby's on Fire"
6. Northern State: "Girl for All Seasons"
7. Daft Punk: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"
8. Unicorns: "Jellybones"
9. Carissa's Wierd: "So You Wanna be a Superhero"
10. Buggles: "I Love You (Miss Robot)"
11. Mike Doughty: "Down on the River by the Sugar Plant"
12. Super Furry Animals: "Tradewinds"
13. Meat Puppets: "I Quit"
14. Rilo Kiley: "A Better Son/Daughter"
15. The Other Leading Brand (feat. Wes Fredenburg): "Outrageous and Contagious"
16. Twink: "Rubbernecker"
17. Prefuse 73: "Nuno"
18. Ween: "Transdermal Celebration"
19. Barcelona: "I Know the Password to Your Shell Account"
20. Kasey Chambers: "Pony"
21. Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra: "Some Velvet Morning"
22. David Clement: "Geriatriphilia"
23. Electric Six: "Synthesizer"

CURRENT MUSIC: New CVB. And it feels... so good!
Cheerful and therefore suspicious of what I may have inadvertently ingested.
CURRENT NEW TELEVISION ADDICTION: The Apprentice. Now that I've given up on ER, I needed something to fill the void, and The Donald fills it rather well, I must say. (Tidbit for fellow Apprentice gluttons: Sharon apparently went to the same high school as this season's Elizabeth!) I've also been watching Lost, but do not enjoy it.
5:59 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, October 9, 2004:

I know you've all been waiting to form your thoughts on the second debate until you received my guidance, so here goes:

Kerry won it handily again. There were moments where I didn't think Bush was... completely self-destructive- granted, I can't remember what they were now because they were quickly obscured by his instant classic ad lib, "You want some wood?"- and there were moments where I felt frustrated with Kerry for not being as forthright as I think he was entitled to be, but overall, Kerry really impressed me. I personally think that his response to the woman who asked for his assurance that her tax dollars "would not go to support abortion" under his administration was the most intelligent thing I've ever heard a major politician say on the issue.

Obviously, he probably lost her vote, because he didn't categorically say, "Fine, Ms. Degenhart, you can just write 'NOT FOR ABORTION USE' on the memo line of the check you send us every April and we'll take care of it," which was obviously the answer she was fishing for. However, I hope other people take notice of the fact that he actually acknowledged that it's not a black-and-white issue, where you're either totally pro-life or totally pro-abortion. He took the time to make clear to her that he understood and respected her perspective on things, but that whatever his personal feelings on the issue, he doesn't feel comfortable legislating morality as a servant of the public. I'm certainly no scholar, but I can't ever remember any presidential candidate getting at the heart of the issue like that during a debate... or ever, really. If I were an undecided voter, that would've clenched it for me. Kerry wasn't my first choice for the Democratic nomination, and until this past month, I'd never hoped for anything but for him to seem like a capable president, which would still be a huge step up, but tonight, I found myself really believing that he would do very well in the White House.

But on the other hand, I will grant that Bush had the balls to come out and take a bold stance against the Dred Scott ruling, and may I say, it's about time. It put my mind at ease to know that he will under no circumstances appoint a pro-slavery Supreme Court justice.

(It reminded me of that one Simpsons where George Bush Sr. was making a public appearance and closed his speech by dramatically saying, "...and that is why I will continue to oppose teenage alcoholism in all its forms!")

All I have to say is that I hope people were paying attention. While it's impossible for the candidates to address every facet of the questions they're given in their allotted time while also responding to attacks made by their respective nemeses (health care, for instance, which is a topic so thorny and labrynthine that it really deserves its own debate), even the limitations of the town hall debate format couldn't prevent Kerry from some truly masterful orating. And yes, going up against Bush can make anyone sound like Atticus Finch, but any candidate who can simultaneously put forth a firm point of view and acknowledge the existence of gray areas is using his brain like a leader. That's not waffling or refusing to take a stand, my friends. That's living in reality.

CURRENT MUSIC: It's a Wonderful Life by Sparklehorse.
Probably. That is, after all, how it's intended.
12:17 AM.

Doot? | |

Thursday, October 7, 2004:

Bev's birthday was yesterday, and for a present, I got her a portrait painted of the two of us... by David Barnes, who is the brother of Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes and is also the artist who painted all the great surreal cartoons that make up the band's album art! David was kind enough to send the painting directly to her, so I hadn't seen it, but Bev scanned it for me tonight and it's just amazing. So I thought I'd share it, because it's so brilliantly whimsical and sweet, but with a tinge of good-hearted black humor, and... I just love it. So enjoy (even though the bottom got cut off by Bev's scanner):

I think I look a little like Matthew Lesko in the picture, which thrills me more than I can say. Plus, it's a portrait that's full of birds and robots! How could anyone not love it?! (Oh- and if you look close, that's Dubya strangling a flamingo at the bottom of the picture. I'd mentioned to David our shared distaste for the man.) Bev was really happy to receive it, but now that I've seen it, I think I'm every bit as pleased as she is. I really like having something so wonderfully unique and special for us to share. So I'd like to say that David Barnes is a truly talented and generous man, and you should all go to his site and check out his other artwork and maybe buy a portrait yourselves.

On another note, attention, all my Metro Detroit friends (friends who live in more fortunate locations please disregard): Neeeeeeeeiiillllllll Motherfucking Haaaaaaaaamburger is going to be at the Magic Stick on October 19, and you will be attending the show with T-Bone and me.

Oh yes you will.

After all, where else are you going to hear jokes like the following?

Q: Why did Madonna feed her infant son dog food?
A: She had no choice! That's all that would come out of her breasts!

Q: Why did God create Alan Alda?
A: He needed some way of transporting all those Golden Globe awards into Hell!

Q: Why is the ocean blue?
A: Well, because so many people put those little disks in the toilet tank that make your water blue, and, uh, when they flush it, of course, the waste is all pumped into the sea. [sigh, clearing throat] Well, if you didn't like that, wait till you hear me explain why the sky is brown! Ehh, never mind. I wouldn't want to swear and forfeit tonight's fee... CES!

I mean where else besides talking to me for more than two minutes.

CURRENT MUSIC: Apollo Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Brian Eno.
From some collection of sex tips I read once: "A man in only his socks and underwear is a man at his worst. Lose the socks before the pants."
10:29 PM.


Saturday, October 2, 2004:

I've been thinking about the debate for the past couple days... Although I gather it was obvious to nearly everyone that Bush got his ass served to him on his own ass, I read somewhere that in a post-debate poll, Bush tested higher on "toughness." My initial reaction was, "Well, I guess they polled people who don't make a distinction between toughness and dunderheaded obstinacy."

But then it struck me that Bush is, in many ways, the ideal candidate for people who don't like making distinctions at all. Never mind seeing things in terms of black and white: throughout the debate, all the points he kept hammering on demonstrated his inability to even distinguish black from white! Instead, he'd just wave his hands, yell, "Colors!" and leave it at that. He truly seemed as though he couldn't comprehend that there is no inherent contradiction in both respecting our nation's troops and thinking that they're being deployed foolishly. Or that agreeing to bilateral talks with North Korea wouldn't necessarily mean that we couldn't go in there with the hope of representing other nations' interests, preventing countries such as China from getting pissed off at us. (He probably doesn't understand how everyone could get so upset with him for acting unilaterally by barging into Iraq, but now they want him to talk one-on-one with Kim Jong-Il.)

Essentially, by continually coming back to his refrain of "I think it sends mixed messages to say, 'Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time,'" it seemed to me as though his only argument for his own re-"election," as far as foreign policy goes, is that people the world 'round would somehow see it as a national weakness if one American has to step in and fix a mess that another, far less competent American made. Even if you strip away his boundless arrogance- e.g., being unable to even admit the possibility that he might not win this election, when directly asked- his logical faculties are so underdeveloped that it's almost as though he has a sociopathic inability to understand that other people exist in the world, and therefore to coexist with them!

Obviously, there was a lot of nonsense coming out of his mouth throughout the debate (we're stuck in a hopeless quagmire and over a thousand Americans are dead because Tommy Franks did his job too well?), but I think this really gets at the crux of why we cannot afford another four years of this man's administration: because he simply cannot reason like a human being. You need to be able to understand other people's points of view if you're in a position of such power. Hell, you need to have a vague idea of the way human nature operates even to play The Sims. And if you cannot do that, that isn't being "tough"; it's being a three-year-old. Doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences that may result from others' reactions to your actions doesn't mean you're doing the right thing, and if we let him get away with it, not only will he never learn, but we'll be no better than a nation of parents who let their toddlers scream and throw things for an entire airplane ride without disciplining the brat.

I got an e-mail from Skarpi (a very nice guy from Iceland whom I know from Babble) yesterday, and amid a thoughtful rumination on love, he included the following paragraph, which I'm going to reprint because I found it particularly poignant and beautiful:

"Am I correct in thinking that your relationship [with Bev] is a long-distance thing? My own was such all this summer. Arna, my girlfriend, was in Palestine protesting the wall and horrible discrimination that is happening there by the Israelis. What a painful delight that was!"

(I hope he doesn't mind; that just struck me as a quotation worth preserving.)

CURRENT MUSIC: Nursery Cryme by Genesis.
Uncorrected personality traits that seem whimsical in a child may prove to be ugly in a fully-grown adult.
11:48 PM.

Doot? | |

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