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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: May 25-May 31, 2003

Saturday, May 31, 2003:

Two of my best friends had horrible tragedies in their families in the past two days. For some reason, I feel uncomfortable talking about it here even though I doubt they'd mind and it's not as if this web journal rivals Moby's for readership or anything, so I'm not going to say anything specific. But I feel a need to mention that my friend's dad wound up on life support on the very day he was supposed to have his retirement party. Something so cosmically wrong like that- when what should be one of the best days of a person's life suddenly becomes one of the worst for all concerned- strikes me as exceedingly unfair. If you saw it in a movie, you'd accuse the screenwriter of shamelessly troweling on the irony to manipulate people's emotions. Life shouldn't be like that, where the rug can be yanked out from beneath you so harshly. I'm sure there are always lessons you can learn from adversity and so forth, but it seems like cruel teasing to have someone look forward to something for so long and then ambush him at the last second. This is an immature attitude of mine.

I haven't been able to get ahold of my friend, so I have no idea how she's doing or if the situation has improved at all since yesterday morning. And I know my other friend is broken up. I wish there was something I could do for them. I don't want my friends to hurt.

In other frustrating news, you may be interested to know that it's been confirmed that Colin Powell and Jack Straw were essentially making shit up when they told the world that they had evidence of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction." Nothing that those of us with eyes, ears, and brains didn't already know, but it's nice to be vindicated. Not that it matters, since the Bush administration is still treating this war like a tremendous victory where we actually accomplished something of value, and they've still got this suspiciously effective policy of silencing anyone who disagrees with them by branding them a liberal terrorist type... There'll be no repercussions for all their lies, nor for all the injuries they inflicted upon the world as a result. Just like Iran-Contra, just like the goons behind Vietnam... Rumsfeld will probably get another book deal out of this.

CURRENT MUSIC: Remain in Light by Talking Heads.
CURRENT MOOD: Bummed, angry, blah. Thank heaven for string cheese, or I'd be a wreck.
A PLUG: You should all register at epinions.com and then visit CosmicBen's Epinions reviews. He gets money if you do, and I want to be able to help at least one friend today.
TIME: 6:48 PM.

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Thursday, May 29, 2003:

In some elementary school somewhere, an extra-clever lunch lady is waiting on tenterhooks for Halloween to roll around this year, just so she has an excuse to serve "Ghoulish Goulash."

TIME: 9:36 PM.

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Last night, my friend Jessi said, "Whoever said money can't buy love is wrong: money can buy music, which is love." Well, she phrased it better, but I thought that was a cool observation. At its best, in songs like "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" by the Flaming Lips, music feels like the most genuine, unconditional form of love that exists. Another plus is that it can't really screw you over, either, unless you're listening to Filthy Lucre Live by the Sex Pistols.

You'd think I'd have more to say about that, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though.

Can I have a couple bucks to go get loaded?

CURRENT MUSIC: Wrong-Eyed Jesus! by Jim White. (Excellent record.)
CURRENT MOOD: Inarticulate yet pensive. Therefore, frustrated.
CURRENT PHYSICAL FLAW I'M FIXATED ON: I think my beard is crooked.
TIME: 5:30 PM.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2003:

As I was falling asleep last night (to have dreams about Hans and Franz and developing a smoking habit as a direct result of my car's front axle breaking), I realized I probably came across as more than a little arrogant in my last post, so I'd like to clarify things: I wasn't trying to say that it's wrong to have an individual conception and interpretation of what God means and what a soul is, and that we all need to follow Jack Chick's advice to the letter if we've any hope of avoiding an eternity of peril. Just that I think it's kinda dumb for people to buy into belief systems that were pulled wholesale from their creators' nether orifices. I'm not saying that any major religion has necessarily painted an accurate picture of the spiritual world, and it's obvious that the most visible representatives of all the major religions on the planet are dangerous loons who've perverted the beliefs of those religions, but I would expect that a centuries-old holy text like the Bible or the Koran or the Upanishads is probably going to at least be closer to the truth than, say, Sylvia Browne's Book of Angels.

For the record, I'm essentially a Christian, but more because Jesus's philosophy of love and giving and so forth makes a lot of sense to me than the fact that I think that I and I alone have all the answers. Obviously, I've probably got a lot of things wrong. Everyone does. Maybe we go to heaven when we die, maybe we're reincarnated, maybe we all just sit around being bored like in Our Town, maybe the dead only quickly decay. I like to believe it's the first one, and I try to live my life with that assumption, but what- if anything- exists beyond our lives is ultimately unknowable, so I'll freely admit that I might be wrong, and if you believe something different from what I believe, that's fine. Personally, I think it's important for everyone to be true to himself and believe what makes sense to him personally, be it Christianity, Taoism, atheism, or miscellaneous, as long as everyone is allowed to do so and no one's beliefs infringe upon anyone else's. However, I think that with that freedom comes a responsibility to actually do some research and some introspection on the subject, to come to an informed conclusion of your own- or as much of a conclusion as you can reasonably reach, given the infinite scope of possibility for the afterlife (or not, if that's the conclusion you reach) and our own inability to grasp it. Buying into the first theology that comes along with a bunch of easy answers strikes me as lazy and irresponsible, because the answers simply aren't easy, if they arrive at all. And there's an entire industry of "new age" authors that has sprung up around a market for easy spiritual answers, for people who want to hear only nice things, and even though it might not be my place to say anything, I think they're really deluding themselves.

This is getting corny and convoluted, so I'll shut up about religion now. Basically, I just wanted to make sure I didn't sound like a total jackass in my last post. For the reasons I thought I sounded like a jackass, anyway. Feel free to still roll your eyes because I admitted laughing at Bruce Almighty.

CURRENT MUSIC: The rough mixes of Milkshake x Infinity by The Other Leading Brand. This record is going to knock the entire world on its collective bum when it's completed. Or, rather, it would if it weren't way too illegal to ever distribute properly.
TIME: 11:03 PM

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Tuesday, May 27, 2003:

I picked up dinner at Pizza Hut tonight, and noticed that they'd removed their cool jukebox and replaced it with some old-school video game. (Not even a cool or kitschy video game, like Pac-Man or Rampage. Just some dumb one I assume they got cheap. Syphilis Hot Tub or something.) Part of me sort of hoped that this was a delayed result of me having played "Drain You" by Nirvana 13 times in a row on that jukebox when I was twelve.

I saw Bruce Almighty yesterday, and it was pretty funny. Not great by any means (check out A Mighty Wind for that), and the commercials pretty well prepare you for what you're going to get, but if you go with it, you'll laugh. For awhile, anyway. The big problem is that the movie obviously has some clever minds behind it (clever enough to toss in subtle throwaway jokes like the way vaguely ethnic anchorwoman Susan Ortega pronounces her name in the most cartoonishly accented way possible), but they totally chicken out of making any sort of comment whatsoever on the spiritual issues they themselves raise. It's not that I expect any sort of great theological commentary to spring from a Tom Shadyac film starring Jim Carrey and featuring a monkey crawling into a man's rectum. That's totally missing the point; Bruce Almighty is not meant to be a religious tract of any sort so much as a stupid, high-concept excuse for Carrey to mug and contort himself, and for Jennifer Aniston to stand there and look cute. To that end, it works fine: I laughed. However, I personally feel like it's beyond insulting for any film to bring up- or at least allude to- topics like the Problem of Evil, free will, and the inscrutable balance between God's master plan and His willingness to answer prayers; to go so far as to dramatize God Himself as a character; and then to cop out of any discussion by concluding with a thoroughly useless platitude like "Be the miracle." That's patronizing, Pay It Forward territory, friends. And believe me, I haven't spoiled anything for you.

Again, I'm not saying I expected the film to be The Last Temptation of Christ or Il Miraculo or even Dogma. I realize that, even with Carrey and Aniston attached, Bruce Almighty would probably never have been made had it attempted to make any comments on the nature of God that are even remotely specific. But it makes me angry that anyone would bother to make an entire film about a topic so rife with potential for... something, and then to essentially avoid the topic entirely. Even if the film somehow came to the conclusion that radical Islamic fundamentalism is the one true faith, at least that's a conclusion. It's a starting point for discussion, and for personal contemplation, and so forth, whether you agree or not. But Bruce Almighty ultimately weasels its way out of involving God- any concept of God- in the notion of spirituality whatsoever, and what's left is the same pile of empty-headed, one-dimensional new agey thinking that gave rise to What Dreams May Come and The Celestine Prophecy and John Edward; that line of thought that basically says, "God/the afterlife/your soul/etc. is basically whatever you want it to be." And that bugs me.

CURRENT MUSIC: me. me. me. by Air Miami.
TIME: 10:34 PM.

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Sunday, May 25, 2003:

You know, the most honest moments on TLC's A Baby Story are the bits in the delivery room, where the woman is shouting things to the effect of, "Get it out of me!" Everything else feels fairly scripted: "We feel so blessed blah blah blah..." "Our little bundle of joy has brought us closer together in so many ways..." "Our older children just love their new baby sister..." Not to disparage the institution of parenthood or anything, because I don't doubt that a lot of these people really and truly are having children for the right reasons, and will do their best to be good parents, but it all feels so whitewashed that I usually wind up feeling sorry for the kids.

I realize that this knee-jerk cynicism is unbecoming and tiresome to read, but it's ingrained in my personality to an unsettling degree. I'm tired of it myself, but no matter what I'm looking at or experiencing, my mind immediately leaps to unbearably dark worst-case scenarios. If I see a baby girl born on A Baby Story, the first thought that springs to my mind is a list of sexual abuse statistics.

Just like I can't see a family walking their dog past my house without suddenly becoming fixated on the sign I saw outside the Humane Society a few years ago that read, "If someone approaches you outside this building offering to take your pet inside, please DO NOT leave your pet with them! They do not work for the Humane Society and may not have your pet's best interests at heart," and being brought to near-tears wondering what horrifying events could've led to those signs being necessary.

Or how I can't hear about a hockey player getting injured (not a happy thing to begin with, but not usually a reason for great consternation either, since hockey injuries are as common as high school graduates who irritatingly find it necessary to use quotation marks for emphasis) without thinking back to that time in the mid-'80s when my mom took my little brother and me to Universal Mall to sign an oversized "get well" card for one of the Red Wings. Shawn Burr, maybe? It's probably not important. At any rate, some asshole had written, "Hey Shawn- I hope you die!" down near the bottom of the card, and it was so random and hateful and mean that my brother- who was maybe 5 at the time, yet could assuredly have recited any NHL statistic you'd care to know, as he has always been a cyborg that is fueled by useless sports trivia- totally freaked out, unable to understand why someone would say something like that to one of his heroes. It was really horrible, watching my brother get hurt that way.

This makes me sound like I've succumbed to George Gerbner's "Mean World Syndrome," I know, but it's not like I've come to this mindset by watching the news every night to be informed about the Big Scary Thing of the Week. It's just that I know so many people who are leading lives of unrelenting misery or violence and disappointment on various levels, handicapped and traumatized by things entirely out of their control and- without bringing religious issues into this- entirely undeserved. It's not that these people, mostly my friends, just roll over and die when presented with adversity, either, like I'm apt to do; they're resilient, strong individuals, but they invariably get broken by the world, because you can't fight an entire planet of wrongness. And I can't stop obsessing over it. All the nice things get fucked up by meanness.

It's not like I'm this delicate little flower who feels a need to take on the pain of the entire world, and who withers and wilts whenever something goes wrong for someone: I enjoy a good black comedy, and anyone who knows me will likely tell you that I have quite a nasty streak at times (particularly regarding Mattie Stepanek). It's just that everything feels like it's falling apart, and I'm seeing darkness everywhere- gross, violent darkness of the sort that was in The Ring, only not as dull- and I'm sick of it because it's overwhelming. So basically, A Baby Story is off my list of shows to watch.

As you may have noticed, my resolve not to turn this journal into a play-by-play of my deteriorating mental state has crumbled considerably.

CURRENT MUSIC: Finally Together by Astor Piazzolla, Osvaldo Pugliese, and the New Tango Sex-Tet.
CURRENT MOOD: Unproductive.
CURRENT FAVORITE ANAGRAM RECORD REVIEW FROM BRENDAN KEARNEY AND GREGG TURKINGTON'S BOOK WARM VOICES REARRANGED: The letters in the phrase, "The Kinks' greatest album is surely Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One" are rearranged to read, "The wordy title enthused anagram lovers... but no one likes smug poems on a rank LP, Ray!" This is one of the coolest books ever.
TIME: 4:00 PM.

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