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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: June 1-June 7, 2003

Thursday, June 5, 2003:

Adrienne sent me a great link to Rob's Amazing Poem Generator. It's one of those amusing novelty websites that takes the text from other sites and uses source code to transform the language. (Kind of like those awesome filters that will make your text sound like the Swedish Chef/Mr. T/a Valley girl, etc. Or just hilariously unintelligible, if you run it through more than one filter.) Anyway, this site takes text from your site and turns it into an avant-garde, free-form poem. What follows is the poem generated by this journal. I have entitled it "How to Wire a House: For Kids, By Kids" and it may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of Chris Willie Williams, except in the instance of brief quotations embedded in critical articles. Sales of this poem without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this poem is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as "unsold or destroyed" and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it:

Disclaimer HOME run. straight past
JOURNAL Web Journal
Web Journal ENTRIES: May have
noticed that the world as I
want my resolve to live by watching
the reasons I sound like come to
promote his face
like, you know, better to
say though, Cynical, Willie will quickly
became clear that
grow weary of God that you? can
be interested
in. Sexy
without the smarts,is also very upset about trading
their nether
featuring a Bit
Useful . TIME: 10:coupons were no
precedent in my other frustrating news,
you should be.

CURRENT MUSIC: What's Next to the Moon by Mark Kozelek.
CURRENT MOOD: Rock-bottom.
CURRENT TRIVIA THAT'S VEXING ME: I cannot seem to find any information describing the difference between "placed" and "thrown" olives. Why would they bother putting those descriptors on the jars if there is no information to be had about the distinction between the two?
TIME: 9:48 AM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, June 3, 2003:

The more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced that Good Weird Feeling by Odds is one of the true unsung masterpieces of the '90s. (That link, by the way, goes to Odds' page on half.com, where you can buy all their albums for 75 cents each plus shipping. Buy it now. Bedbugs is also very good. Nest is alright- worth 75 cents- and I haven't heard Neopolitan.) They traffic in a very strange form of rock that's not especially tight, and sometimes sounds like they're whacking their guitars with kitchen utensils on the louder numbers, but it's never disagreeable or less than melodic- especially given their penchant for huge, syrupy harmony parts. The only other band I can think of who comes close to this style, though without the smarts, is You Am I. That probably doesn't help most of you, since the only reasons I know those guys are because my Aussiephile brother is a fan, and because it's vexed me for years to constantly find their CDs filed in the "Yo La Tengo" section at my local record stores.

Anyway, Good Weird Feeling really is a must-own. Every time I pop it in my stereo, I'm amazed anew at how many memorable, perfect, straightforward guitar tunes are on here. "Mercy to Go" and "Oh Sorrow, Oh Shame"? Clever boogies in no hurry to get anywhere, both of which rank above 90% of Aimee Mann's catalog. (And that's saying something!) "Break the Bed"? A brilliant, writhing slow burn of rock horniness that finds the ideal balance between "restrained" and "threatening to fly out of control." "We'll Talk"? An intimate, hushed pop confession that's propulsive without crushing the gentle vibraphone arrangement or Craig Northey's sweet vocalizing. And that's not even mentioning the addictive singles "Truth Untold" (a fairly big hit in Ontario, as I understand it) and "Eat My Brain." 

Throughout the record, the band tempers nice-guy sincerity with postcollegiate wordplay, but they never sacrifice emotion for braininess; it's more like when your life is falling apart and your best friend tells you a gentle little joke to make you smile for a moment. (Not that Good Weird Feeling is dour: even "The Last Drink," a eulogy for a drinking buddy, captures the shoulder-punching good times of the living rather than focusing on mournfulness.) If I bothered to make a Top Ten Albums of the '90s list, this would definitely be on there. It might seem too casual at first to be mindblowing, and at first, maybe it is. But it's one of those rare records that grows in power and beauty literally every time you listen to it, so even if it does take you seven years to realize how utterly magnificent it is (like it did with me), it's doubtful that you'll grow weary of it. It's like a perpetual motion machine in CD form.

Perhaps I'll put a record review section on this site somewhere, for observations like this.

Anyway, I feel like taking a break from using this journal as a venue to voice my self-pity and cynicism. (Worry not, though: Cynical, Self-Pitying Willie will return soon in SuperJournal 2K3: We're All Hopelessly Screwed and I'm Sick of the American Film Institute Using the Same 100 Movies in All Their "100 Best Whatever" TV Specials.) And since Adrienne beat me to the vicious political ranting today- and makes a billion great points without resorting to the snide didacticism that I usually do- I guess there's nothing left to do but regale you with a cheerful anecdote from years past. And then warm your icy heart with a hot island song. So here's a good one that popped into my head earlier today:

In elementary school, I was briefly on a little league baseball team. I can't remember if this was my idea or if it was my parents' uninspired tool to force me to socialize and develop naive, impractical notions of "teamwork." Either way, it quickly became clear that I was going to be more of a liability to my team than the Little Big League/Rookie of the Year-esque baseball prodigy that perhaps my dad had envisioned. In addition to a dreadful lack of coordination that put even mastery of Nintendo's Baseball beyond my grasp, let alone real-life fielding skills, I lacked the knowledge of many baseball rules that were either so basic or obscure that my coach never bothered to inform me of them. For instance, if you hit a single, you're allowed to run straight past first base as far as you want after you touch it, without fear of being tagged out. The same, I discovered on numerous occasions, apparently does not apply to second and third. "Running out of the baseline," they call it. Bastards.

So after a few games' worth of this, and influenced more by Wil E. Coyote than the noble rules of fair play that baseball coaches like to imagine are somehow inherent in the game despite having basically no precedent in reality, I began to devote my time and energy to devising clever ways of cheating.

In this particular division of the little league, there were no pitchers. Though third graders were deemed too old to simply hit the ball off a tee, most of us didn't have the arm control to pitch- at least not from far enough away that would prevent us from being belted in the head every time the batter connected with the ball. So the Troy Parks & Recreation organization had a number of big, red pitching machines to do the job where illogical, weak humans failed. Unlike the pitching machines you're probably picturing (or "pitchering," as it were, haw!), these contraptions didn't really spit the ball straight at you so much as catapult it on a temperamental mechanical arm that had to be recalibrated four or five times per inning to keep the balls from beaning the batters, smacking the dirt three feet in front of the machine, or nearly clearing the backstop. There were always six or seven extra balls lying around on the pitcher's mound, next to the machine, so it could be easily reloaded, I guess.

During one game, while functioning as a second baseman, I decided it would be a good idea to surreptitiously grab one of the extra balls and keep it hidden in my glove. That way, my reasoning went, if a runner passed me by, I could tag him out with the fake ball and be a hero! Likewise, if a pop fly was hit to me- since I would obviously never catch it- I could simply raise my glove victoriously, display the ringer ball, and I'd be credited with an out! It was the perfect crime!

Now, some of you may have noticed a minor flaw in my reasoning there. I can honestly say, though, that the problem of what to do with the ball that was actually in play never occurred to me. In my vision of how this scenario would play out, I'm sure Penny from Inspector Gadget showed up at some point to lavish affection upon me like a prepubescent Morgana the Kissing Bandit as well- I wasn't the most realistic ballplayer in the world. So anyway, I palmed one of the balls. Knowing me, I'm sure I then stood there at second base with a ridiculous grin on my face, unable to contain my glee at being the cleverest man alive. My airtight scheme was soon put to the test, when the batter hit a simple grounder directly to me. (Not many grounders actually made it to the second baseman, as I recall, instead usually ricocheting inconveniently off the pitching machine.)

The possibility of a grounder hadn't occurred to me, but I quickly decided that the best thing to do would be to just field it as I normally would, and keep the extra ball hidden in my mitt for when I did need it. And what followed was, in the space of only a few seconds, an encapsulation of everything that makes the game great; a moment of athletic and, indeed, human triumph to rival Babe Ruth "calling his shot" in the World Series, Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World," or Kirk Gibson's over-the-roof home run. The ball in play hit my mitt, bounced off the other ball, and they each went rolling away from me in opposite directions across the infield.

I remember my teammates basically stopping in their tracks, confused. Actually, I remember the batter stopping in his tracks, confused, but I'm sure my memory has added that bit in an effort to give this event more comic impact, like in movies when someone says something embarrassing in a busy office and suddenly everyone turns to look at him and even the phones stop ringing. At any rate, no one was sure what had happened, and the coaches decided that the best course of action would be to declare it a ground-rule double and never speak of it again. My coach started to ask me what had happened, but then got a look on his face like, "He couldn't possibly have..." and thought better of it. After that season, it was decided by all concerned that perhaps I would better serve the team as a scorekeeper than out on the field. And now you know... the rest of the story!

That wasn't interesting to anyone but me, but it's my friggin' journal, and like you have anything better to do. I know you're just reading this to kill time while you wait for your Libby Hoeler videos to download from Kazaa anyway.

Has anyone heard anything by the band Broken Spindles? Are they good? I just purchased their CD from half.com, based solely on how cool the artwork on the cover is, and I'd like to know what I'm gettin'. Isn't that a cool cover? It's not often that I think an album- or book, for that matter- is designed in such a way that would compel me to check it out if I weren't already planning to. Dump's A Plea for Tenderness, definitely. (Adorable, yet all the negative space gives it a rather sad vibe.) Spiritualized's Lazer Guided Melodies, probably, though I'd think it was an ambient-house record. (Beautifully stark, and shot through with a nifty ambiguity: are those figures dancing or is the woman-thing in peril?) And the book Layover by Laura Ziedner, though I wound up reading the back cover and it's nothing I'd be interested in. (Sexy without being lewd, and the fact that it's out-of-focus makes things seem distant and a little regretful.) I'm not such a big fan of anything that just screams the author/band name and title, accompanied by some random image.

So how's by you?

CURRENT MUSIC: Good Weird Feeling, and 18 by Moby.
CURRENT MOOD: What's that word for "lazy yet feeling free to blather on about any topic that pops into your head"? No, not high...
REASON THE WORD ODDS ISN'T PREFACED BY THE WORD THE IN THE RANT ABOVE: I don't think they're The Odds; I'm pretty sure it's just supposed to be "Odds." Like when you're shooting for something and you call "evens" or "odds." I've never bothered to investigate my theory, however- simple though it would be to do so. Let's just assume that I'm right. Hey! That was fun! Let's assume that all the time!
TIME: 11:18 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, June 1, 2003:

So the day after it's announced that the US and the UK really had no evidence whatsoever of Saddam possessing WMDs before the war, and now that the US Senate has announced plans to investigate the veracity of these pre-war claims (not that they'd dare say anything against Bush regardless of what conclusions they reach), Tony Blair announces that he has "secret proof" that they exist and will be found. You know, given the fact that the impartial United Nations weapons inspectors haven't been allowed back into Iraq, and all the hunting for weapons is being performed by "The Coalition" (a.k.a. "The Countries Whose Leaders Are Desperate to Avoid a Complete Loss of Credibility by Producing Something, Anything That Can be Construed as a WMD")... I bet they will "find" something!

I've realized that at least part of the reason that I've been suffering from this paralyzing ennui for about six months is that I've reached a point in my life where there's no definite finish line to anything I do. Until last year, my whole life was divided up into easy-to-manage chunks that worked toward an identifiable ending: elementary school ends and you move on to middle school. When that's done, you move on to high school. Then college. And then you graduate from college. No matter how boring or painful things got, there was always at least some sort of visible progress. But ever since I got my Bachelor's Degree, there've been no more checkpoints to look forward to, and it's scary to think that things could go on this way forever, because they could, in theory! Not that I don't have goals for my life- starting my record label, moving to a big, non-Detroit city, etc.- but there's really no end to anything in sight, and no real guarantee that things are going to move forward no matter what you do. It's like when you accomplish all the missions in Grand Theft Auto III, and yet the game continues, letting you drive around and run over pedestrians to your heart's content. Fun for awhile, but it feels kinda pointless and quickly becomes tiresome.

Not that I wish I was back in school or anything, of course. (Well, maybe grad school at some point.) And I know better than to wish for more drama in my life. It's just that, no matter how hard I might work toward the goals I've set for myself, what if still nothing happens? At work a little while ago, this older guy named Vince was walking around with a tape measure extended to 84 inches (84 being the average American life expectancy, according to Vince). He'd then ask everyone his or her age, and demonstrate how much of their life was left by pointing to the appropriate number on the tape measure.

Yes, he probably should've been working instead of cheerfully reminding the bookstore staff of its own mortality, but since Jon and I were busy drawing on the lifesize cutout of Henry Winkler that we'd received to promote his new book, neither of us felt as though we were in a position to accuse him of wasting time.

Anyway, I told Vince that I'm 22, and he indicated a point on the tape that was a little more than a quarter of the way down, and all I could think was, "That's gonna take forever!" There's potential for that to just be a whole lotta boredom and loneliness.

CURRENT MOOD: Patient anticipation for Robosapiens. I have no attention span for sci-fi, but robots are just plain cool.
6:13 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.