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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: April 25-May 3, 2004

Saturday, May 1, 2004:

The following questionnaire is intended to help me become aware of shortcomings in my personality and appearance to which I may be oblivious, but that you, my friends, would probably be too polite to bring to my attention under ordinary circumstances. Please answer only those questions that you feel qualified to answer. (That is, if you have the good fortune to be geographically removed from me, feel free to skip the questions pertaining to my appearance, hygiene, etc. Or just make up funny answers that will make me cry on the inside; I know who knows me in real life.) You may feel free to answer without fear of damaging your friendship with me; your participation and brutal candor is appreciated and, indeed, demanded here. It will not be held against you. Until this survey is completed, you may not visit Salon, Amazon, Music Babble, Television Without Pity, Pitchfork MediaPeterCat's Furry InfoPage, NoMarriage.com, or any of the other sites you frequent daily. Participants who successfully fill out this form will be entered in a random drawing for $50 worth of free gas at their favorite gas station. (Fill 'er up and drive off! I told them you were coming!)

This is important. Your answers to this survey will contribute to the molding of a new, vibrant, space-age Willie; one that everyone can agree upon. I'm dead serious about this. I have long suspected that there are certain key areas of personal interaction and public presentation that I am simply not aware of, due to a lack of common sense, inability to read people, and/or perhaps having missed out on some sort of education in the mores of social interaction that everyone else somehow received. This is your opportunity to help correct this. Thank you for your time and your thoughts.

1. The goatee: shave it or keep it? Please feel free to suggest an alternative configuration of facial hair. Bear in mind that Willie's philtrum is mostly hairless, which would make a Hitler moustache rather difficult to pull off, in addition to being tasteless.

2. Does Willie give off an unpleasant or even noticeably strong odor that should really be addressed? Are there other hygiene issues that suggest a blind spot in this otherwise fussy young man's grooming rituals? (Areas to focus on: hair, teeth, skin, body hair, etc.)

3. Please list Willie's most egregious fashion faux pas (plural), and offer more aesthetically pleasing alternatives to his typical mode of dress. Is there any "look" that you think works particularly well on him? Are there any specific "looks" that you think he needs to abandon immediately?

3a. True or false: Willie should not wear shorts regardless of the weather, as his legs are simply too skinny and hairy for me to ever want to see them. Also, he never really knows what to do with his socks.

3b. True or false: While it's obviously difficult for a person of his uniquely spindly body type to purchase jeans, Willie should really invest in a belt, as it's embarrassing for everyone to see the crotch of his pants constantly folding in such a manner that suggests he has taken ill-advised advantage of Enzyte's free trial offer.

4. Select one: Willie's breath is (a) pleasantly fragrant, like when you walk past the roasted almond cart in the mall, (b) unnoticeable, (c) nothing that couldn't be corrected by remembering to down a couple Altoids after each of his many daily cups of coffee, (d) enough to make me wonder if he uses santorum as toothpaste.

5. Does it look weird that Willie always carries his wallet and keys in the front pockets of his jeans? (Pickpockets please ignore this.)

6. Does Willie possess any particular nervous tics or other physical habits that you find gross, offensive, or just plain weird? Explain.

7. Select all that apply: I wish Willie would shut the hell up about (a) cartoons, (b) music, (c) The Onion, (d) the crimes of the Bush administration, (e) himself and his hatred of same, (f) his opinions on my personal matters, because I'd much rather have a sympathetic ear than uninformed advice, (g) the hopelessness of it all, (h) his childhood, (i) other (explain).

8. Complete this sentence: When I discuss Willie in his absence, I am most likely to criticize him for/express concern about [insert bothersome personality trait(s)].

9. Select one: Willie's "I'm always right" attitude regarding matters of opinion is (a) hilarious and charming, because he clearly respects differing points of view despite this persona, (b) obviously a joke, but one that stops being funny about as quickly as slapsticky pratfalls from a pallbearer, (c) clearly presented as a joke, but I suspect it nevertheless reflects a true and deep-seated arrogance on his part, (d) smug and irritating enough to justify imprisoning him for life in a cell with Dennis Miller.

10. Essay question: Why, in your opinion, are women generally not attracted to Willie? What changes could he make to render himself more romantically appealing, aside from prohibitively expensive cosmetic surgery?

11. Please list three positive qualities about Willie that you'd like to see him embrace to feel more confident about himself and also provide you with a more rewarding friendship experience.

12. Please list three negative qualities about Willie that he really needs to address for the benefit of all concerned. (Specific solutions would be helpful.)

13. Complete this sentence: When discussing Willie to those unfamiliar with him, the five adjectives I would be most likely to use are...

14. Finally, please use this space to bring to light any recurring errors- large or small- that Willie makes in matters involving his own appearance, his personality, his actions, his life, his friendship with you, or his relationships with others. Please be as detailed as possible, offering specific examples and, if possible, potential solutions. If you need more space, use the other side of your monitor.

Thank you for your participation. Your opinion is important to us. "WE CARE!" Your personal information will not be shared with anyone without your consent, and is collected strictly for statistical use. Please check this box if you would like to receive periodic news updates and special offers from Willie via e-mail. Questions? Comments? Please have your customer tracking number available when calling. Do NOT go on to read other web journals until instructed to do so. Aim Willie away from face. Willie is not intended for the treatment, cure, or prevention of any illness and has not been evaluated by the FDA. Survey scoring is modeled on college football's infallible BCS process. You may be asked to repeat your answers to this survey in an audio deposition because your accent is amusing. By taking this survey, you have agreed to waive any right to litigation against Chris Willie Williams or his parent company, General Dynamics Inc., for damages resulting from gross negligence or intentionally harmful behavior, and the reading of this disclaimer constitutes acceptance of the provisions and terms described herein. This survey composed by The Self-Esteem Hut: OUR SURVEY'S ARE "THE BEST!" Reprinted by permission.

CURRENT MUSIC: Where the Words Go by Andrea Maxand.
CURRENT MOOD:
Focus groupy.
PHRASE THAT'S BEEN BOPPIN' AROUND IN MY HEAD ALL DAY:
"Ass-Lickin' Pelican Ass." Surely you all recognize this popular catchphrase from the beloved, late Internet cartoon Mr. Wong, right?
TIME:
1:10 PM.

Doot?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004:

Two stories. This first bit is a journal entry I wrote at work a few weeks ago, when Jon was on vacation:

There's a Cat in the Hat snow globe on the shelf where we keep the tape guns. (Scotch brand H-180. Model 29200. Premium Industrial Grade Dispenser.) The Cat's arms are around the two Seuss children, and he's sitting cross-legged with a fishbowl in his lap. The Cat's head has fallen off.

When Rita picked the snow globe up yesterday, the head was buried beneath the snowflakes. "The head's not in here," she said, shooting me a look that was both questioning and a little bit disturbed. For a moment, I could tell we were each considering the possibility that the smiling plastic children had devoured the Cat's head when no one was looking.

Rita shook the globe and the head appeared, bobbing wobblingly around the globe like a bowling pin in space. I told her the story of that supposedly haunted painting that was sold on eBay, where the doll figure is said to have come alive and forced the boy figure out of the painting at gunpoint. "Shut up!" she said in astonishment, before vowing to investigate it, but only from a public computer.

We were listening to Sexy World by The Yummy Fur.

Story number two. This is an exchange that I forgot to mention in my Toronto travelogue a couple days ago: on the way back to Michigan, Jess and I were listening to that Who album she bought, and I asked, "Do you have the Nuggets box?"

"You mean the McDonald's Changeables?" she replied.

I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to be condescending or to make fun of my friends by relating these things; I mention them because it's moments like those when I remember that not everyone has the same frame of reference as I do. Occasionally, a friend will unintentionally uncover a keyhole that allows you to peek into the internal wiring of her mind, and it will be very different from what you'd expected. That's when friendship is at its most beautiful.

CURRENT MUSIC: Add Insult to Injury by Add N to (X).
CURRENT MOOD:
Contemplative. Also, impatient for South Park.
CURRENT BEST WEBSITE EVER:
The Exhilarator, a site that randomly pairs a one-panel magazine cartoon with a caption from a different one-panel magazine cartoon. Lots of funny accidental unions. I imagine most of the comics are greatly improved, too, since both the art and the words frequently alternate between The New Yorker's style of bland stuffiness and the sophomoric witlessness of a novelty T-shirt.
TIME:
9:07 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, April 26, 2004:

I got a copy of the new MAGNET today, with my advertisement in it. It came out really well, and actually looks more professional than the CD itself. I'm on page 121, and am incredibly lucky to be there because a nice, thick subscription card is stuffed between pages 120 and 121. So if an unsuspecting bookstore browser casually lets the magazine fall open toward the end... well, hello there! Who's that handsome devil?

It's Ian McCulloch from Echo & the Bunnymen. But on the facing page...

It's Chris Willie Williams of Disclaimer!

CURRENT MUSIC: Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State by Sufjan Stevens.
CURRENT MOOD:
Pleased.
DISTRESSING REALIZATION: Now that the Kraftwerk show is over, I have nothing to look forward to.
TIME:
6:29 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, April 25, 2004:

Every time I go to Toronto, it strengthens my desire to move there. Too bad the immigration laws, as I understand them, pretty much disqualify me unless I find a Canadian business to sponsor my visa (unlikely) or a Canadian girl to marry (unpossible). It's a shame, because Toronto is a city so vibrant, welcoming, and satisfyingly diverse that it would be downright utopian if it were slightly warmer. Alas, it's chilly, and I have to mark it down a few points as a result. This means that, on the hair-product slogan scale of quality, Toronto isn't quite A Totally Organic Experience, but it's still in the 91st percentile for Because You're Worth It.

Jess and I stayed at a HoJo's in the portion of the city that's apparently called "The Annex." It seemed like a nice area, full of beautiful townhouses that made us jealous of their occupants. After checking in, we wandered down Bloor street, in search of the record stores that Marco had told me about. People-watching was fun as we walked, because everyone seems to be completely laid-back and unself-conscious while wandering the streets, whether they were a sweaty, long-haired guy who'd decided that it's never too cold to go running in only shoes and skimpy track shorts, or a woman who was chasing her angry, sweater-wearing chihuahua all over the place for several blocks. It's a nice, accepting vibe that you don't get in any American city I've ever visited.

We bought a handful of records: Jess got discs by the Horrorpops and The Sunshine Fix; I picked up a Pastels remix album and some stuff by Lamb, the Libertines, and the Golden Palominos. She and I were then disgusted to discover that we'd started salivating at the smell of the McDonald's fries that one of the record store clerks was eating, and concluded that we must've been really hungry. Next stop: Sushi Time, a cute Japanese restaurant that displayed a sign reading, "Excuse me, what time is it? It's... SUSHI TIME!" Pretty good food. Nothing to write home about, unless you feel a need to tell your family that Sushi Time's food is adequate but unremarkable.

On a whim, we stopped in Honest Ed's discount crap store, and immediately felt like we were being forced to go on a carnival ride we didn't want to go on. It's the most bizarre store I've ever been in, from the acres of cheap products (kitchen utensils next to busts of Elvis, which in turn were next to gardening supplies, and so on in that fashion) to the epilepsy-mocking flashing marquee lights all over the place. And oh, the walls. Every available inch was covered with autographed pictures of old actors (e.g., James Whitmore), gigantic movie posters (e.g., Lost in Yonkers), or placards emphasizing how low Ed's prices are (e.g., "Honest Ed is a NIGHTMARE! But his low prices are a DREAM!"). Jess and I left in a flurry of sensory overload.

Upon returning to the hotel, we watched a French game show and then stumbled upon Yu-Gi-Oh. Or as we now call it, The Best Show Ever. I know it's only been a couple weeks since I posted about the insanity of the Yu-Gi-Oh episode guide I'd seen at work, but the actual program is such a masterpiece of noisy, stream-of-consciousness nonsense that it makes the episode guide seem as straightforward as a Roger Hargreaves book. There was no identifiable plot to speak of in the 30 minutes Jess and I watched, instead consisting solely of the title character and a smartass anime kid named Noah playing the card game equivalent of Calvinball. Here's an approximation of the dialogue:

YUGI: [bellowing in a gruff voice that hilariously contrasts with the squeakiness of every other character] Noah! Your arrogance has betrayed you once again, as my Interdimensional Trident diminished the effectiveness of your Spirit Flame! Prepare to say goodbye, as I am now playing a Triple-Heavy Card of Unity, which allows me to retrieve one of my monsters from the Graveyard. I summon... Dark Magician! And because both he and Dark Magician Girl possess the Talon of Wizardly Honor, they may unite and bring forth... THE MAGICIAN OF BLACK CHAOS!

[Magician of Black Chaos appears in a shower of flashing anime lights.]

YUGI: And you see, Noah, once my monsters have bonded in the Carnal Utility Cauldron, I can play my Nutrient-Z Card to deactivate your Filament Shield and attack your Life Points directly! The battle is mine, Noah! Noah!

NOAH: Hee hee hee! Why don't you just admit that I'm the better player, Yugi? For you surely must know that your Nutrient-Z Card may deactivate my Filament Shield, but because Yakudomaza is in play, the Shield's vitality value is diverted to my Pouch of Invisi-Smoke, and I can now play a Sixth-Level Intuition Card to revive my Rabbit of Akara!

[The Rabbit of Akara appears. It's seriously a red-eyed anime rabbit riding a jackhammer.]

YUGI: What you say!

NOAH: Rabbit of Akara, I command you to illuminate the Yoni of Piscine Aroma and finish off Dark Magician Girl! And I'll play a Draw Four Wild Card for good measure!

[The Rabbit of Akara does some shit.]

YUGI: NOAH!

So I expect Jess and I will be quoting from that show for the rest of our lives. She called Tim later in the evening, telling him of our discovery, and he said, "Hey, congratulations! You're now a third grader!"

Anyway, it was time for the Kraftwerk show, which was held at the Ricoh Coliseum. I asked both the hotel consierge and a cab driver if they knew where the Ricoh was, and they both professed ignorance. Seems the venue is pronounced "rico" and I'd been saying "ryko," which caused all the confusion. They weren't simply being smarmy about my mispronunciation; it wasn't like when we discuss the band Neu! and you pronounce it "new," which causes me to cock an arrogant eyebrow and say, "You mean 'noy'?" to make you feel dumb. They seriously didn't make the connection because I altered a vowel sound. How many coliseums can there be in Toronto?

It got straightened out, and we wound up inside what is evidently a hockey arena, but which was Kraftwerk Central on Friday night. Jess and I had third-row seats, stage left, and we hoped to be able to find Rita and Luke, who had general admission floor tickets. Jess guessed (correctly, as we later discovered), "If I know Rita, she's right up front, at the stage," and we were thus unable to see 'em. Rita has been talking about nothing except the Kraftwerk show for months, she's been so excited. Luckily, there were enough funny goth/Eurotrash folks hanging around to keep Jess and me amused.

At precisely 8:30(!), the opening to "The Man Machine" blared throughout the arena, and the stage's curtains opened to reveal the Mensch-Maschines themselves. Four dignified German men in their sixties, all standing perfectly still on a platform, each with a laptop in front of them. The stage glowed red, and a screen behind the band projected the song's lyrics and some graphics in a gorgeously outdated style of WarGames-era computer technology. It was a killer opener, promising a concert full of rhythmic, melodic, mechanical music that did its best to do away with the human element entirely. (Which is a mood I adore.)

And that's what they delivered. For over two hours, Kraftwerk stood completely still as they performed, to the point that they could've simply been playing a record over the PA system and killing time by Instant-Messaging one another up there and we wouldn't have known any better. Stock footage and hypnotic graphics filled the screen behind them as they ran through fine new songs like "Vitamin" and "Expo 2000" as well as old favorites. My favorites, as always, were the more sinister numbers like "Trans-Europe Express/Metal on Metal" and "Radioactivity," but the show was never less than captivating.

("Radioactivity" kicked off with a vocoderized message that a certain radioactive element "will cause death and skin cancer." ME: "Death and skin cancer?" JESS: "In that order.")

Kraftwerk played three encores as well, which succeeded in exceeding any expectations I'd had for the show by several light years. The first encore included almost all of Computer World. The second consisted of "The Robots," with actual, dancing Kraftwerk robots onstage in place of the band members! The third was nice as well. I'm sure it's tiresome to read me raving about concert after concert in this journal, but I was lucky enough to have yet another mind-blowing experience that you should see for yourself if you have the opportunity.

Yesterday morning, after a continental breakfast and some fun redubbing of a French Claymation program featuring Miffy (it quickly became a cynical amalgam of Eyes Wide Shut and Waiting for Godot), Jess suggested we hit Toronto's Chinatown district, so we checked out of the hotel bright and early to do so. Unfortunately, our caffeine-fueled early rise had resulted in us arriving in Chinatown long before most of the shops were open. We hit a few markets, a trinket store where Jess bought some Chinese coins, and a thrift shop where I picked up an awesome hat of the sort that salesmen on '50s sitcoms always wore, but that was about it. It's alright, though, because I'm proud of my hat.

Yonge Street, the main drag in Toronto, was our next destination even though Marco had cautioned me that it's "pure cliche." (Which I suppose it may be, but it still trumps anything metro Detroit has to offer, so we were perfectly satisfied.) I got a coffee drink at The Second Cup, which was delicious, albeit hot enough to leave my mouth a seared glob of exposed nerve endings. More record shopping at Sam the Record Man, where Jess found some cheap Sloan, Sarah Harmer, and Who records, and I got Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats and The Songs of Leonard Cohen for six Canadian "dollars" each. She and I also went into a wig shop to admire the wigs. They had nice wigs.

Rita rang Jess's cell phone and we arranged to meet up with her and Luke later in the afternoon. To kill time until then, Jess and I decided to grab some lunch. On the way, she excitedly insisted we go into some candy store that was called Sweet Land or Sweet Time or Eye-Burningly Colorful Explosion of Sugar; I can't remember which. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I bought only a Kinder Egg, which is a fabulous chocolate egg from Europe that contains an awesome plastic toy. A few years ago, I got one that contained a miniature replica of the Kinder Egg factory. This time, it was a funny jack-in-the-box contraption in which a guy pops out of a TV set. (If I may name-drop for a moment, Ira Kaplan once wrote me a letter in which he mentioned that Kinder Eggs were a major source of bonding between Yo La Tengo and The Dead Milkmen when they toured Europe together.) They're really fun.

Jess, on the other hand, scooped up a sizeable load of gummi products at the store: king-sized Swedish Fish, cola-flavored gummies, gummi berries, etc. By the time we arrived at the aptly-named Friendly Thai restaurant, she'd scarfed down the entire bag. We ordered lunch, and after she took about four bites of her Pad Thai, she gave up and groaned, "I can totally hear my dad saying, 'Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!' Glad I'm a five-year-old when it comes to sugar!"

"Were you one of those kids who'd stay up on Halloween night and eat all your candy until you got sick?" I asked.

She was.

Then we hung out with Rita for awhile as Luke and a friend of his searched for electronic records, and Jess and I headed home at about 4:00. On the drive back to Michigan, we suddenly heard a loud WHAM! WHAM WHAM! on Pip's roof, and I cringed to think what gigantic dent must've been up there this time. When we pulled into a rest stop on Oil Heritage Road in Petrolia, Ontario, I discovered that the rubber sealing tube that was installed atop Pip's new windshield had wriggled itself free and was now hanging by a thread, flopping sleepily onto the roof of the car. Given the history of events that occur when Jess and I hang out together, this was a rather tame bit of bad luck ("Gearing up for the grand finale," she predicted), but it's frustrating to have to go back to the glass place tomorrow. At least the windshield didn't fall in our laps on the way back.

Really, that was the only bad part of the trip, too. It was a nice drive both ways, and our actual stay in Toronto was simultaneously as eventful and relaxing as I could hope for in a 24-hour period. Jess is a wonderful traveling buddy, and I thank her for a great trip. I'd also like to thank Kraftwerk, the staff of the Friendly Thai, Rita and Luke, the TVO Kids' Club... [orchestra swells to announce that I've gone on too long, the ornamental spokesmodel escorts me offstage.]

CURRENT MUSIC: Between Darkness & Wonder by Lamb.
CURRENT MOOD:
Uber-ding!
CURRENT READ: The excerpt from Bush's Hornswaggled! (as told to Bob Odenkirk) over on the Mr. Show site.
TIME:
3:38 PM.

Doot? | |

PAST JOURNAL ENTRIES: May 3, 2003-May 9, 2003. May 10, 2003-May 16, 2003. May 17-May 24, 2003. May 25-May 31, 2003. June 1-June 7, 2003. June 8-June 13, 2003. June 14-June 21, 2003. June 22-July 1, 2003. July 2-July 13, 2003. July 14-July 20, 2003. July 21-July 26, 2003. July 27-August 4, 2003. August 5-August 9, 2003. August 10-August 16, 2003. August 17-August 23, 2003. August 24-August 30, 2003. August 31-September 6, 2003. September 7-September 13, 2003. September 14-September 20, 2003. September 21-September 29, 2003. September 30-October 4, 2003. October 5-October 11, 2003. October 12-October 19, 2003. October 20-October 26, 2003. October 27-November 1, 2003. November 2-November 16, 2003. November 17-December 3, 2003. December 4-December 12, 2003. December 13-December 20, 2003. December 21-December 27, 2003. December 28, 2003-January 3, 2004. January 4-January 11, 2004. January 12-January 17, 2004. January 18-January 24, 2004. January 25-January 31, 2004. February 1-February 8, 2004. February 9-February 14, 2004. February 15-February 24, 2004. February 25-February 29, 2004. March 1-March 7, 2004. March 8-March 25, 2004. March 26-April 7, 2004. April 8-April 17, 2004. April 18-April 24, 2004.


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