Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: June 22- July 1, 2003
Tuesday, June 24, 2003:
I bought the graphic novel I Never Liked You by Chester Brown today, and read it in about 20 minutes when I got home. (Nice, thick book, but it goes fast.) It doesn't quite have the punch-in-the-stomach emotional impact of something like Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson or Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, but it's nevertheless a nice, sad collection of heartbreaking snapshots from Brown's adolescence. Worth checking out, if you see it.
Have you seen that stupid commercial for Boston Market where they're making a big deal out of the fact that it's much more convenient to just pick up some nutritionless grub on the way home than actually cook for your family, and a title card reads, "PREHEAT OVEN TO ZERO DEGREES"? Wouldn't that make it a freezer? I hate the world.
When I was driving home yesterday, I saw a blue, plastic wastebasket lying in the middle of the road and almost started crying for some reason. Nothing remarkable about it; just a squarish wastebasket of the sort you can find under most kitchen sinks. It had already been run over a few times, and as I swerved to avoid it, I imagined that it had been purchased that day by some individual who had just been through a horrible, traumatic event of some sort.
The actual scenario that popped into my head involved an old guy who recently had a minor stroke, but had been working really hard to recover through several months of intense physical therapy, and yesterday was the first day his family allowed him to go out shopping on his own, to prove to himself that he could do it. So he slowly but surely made his way to Target, gathering the four or five simple items his encouraging relatives asked him to pick up. As he wandered through the aisles, he remembered that his daughter and her family needed a new wastebasket, as their old one had recently been split by his grandson stuffing the entire contents of his backpack into it at the end of the school year. The man knew that his daughter's favorite color was sky blue, and when he came across a plastic garbage can of that very color, he beamed and decided to purchase it for her as a special surprise. With some difficulty, he lifted the wastebasket into his cart, staggered determinedly through the checkout line, and, proudly rejecting assistance from the Target bagger, loaded up the back of his son-in-law's Ford Focus with the goods. Unfortunately, his strength being what it is, he was unable to close the rear hatch entirely and, although it was shut when he triumphantly pulled out of the parking lot, it popped open when he hit a pothole and his new purchases flew all over the road. When he got home and realized what had happened, his wizened face contorted into a sad rictus and he cried at the realization that, through no fault of his own, everyday tasks were still beyond his abilities and would probably forever be.
I actually started to write a lengthy story about this guy (who I called "Ernie"), but I can't write fiction and the story was full of so many unnecessarily tragic details that Lars Von Trier would accuse me of being way too cruel to the character. So that's the gist of what ran through my mind, and that's how a garbage can practically reduced me to tears. Next up: we'll see if I can't find some sort of misery in an ordinary tortilla or something!
CURRENT MOOD: Too hot in here.
CURRENT SOURCE OF IRRITATION: You can only use 80 characters when you leave feedback for someone at half.com, so my comments about the people who ripped me off on those My So-Called Life DVDs don't really have the impact they should. I mean, I could only fit the word douchebags into that little window eight times!
TIME: 10:17 PM.
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Monday, June 23, 2003:
Okay, trying to be less of a hopeless doomsayer pathetic downer annoying blah. So here's a partial list of things that made me smile today:
· Rediscovering how truly affecting and beautiful Your Favorite
Music by Clem Snide is.
· Hearing my dad yell, "BULLSHIT!" at a muffed call at the Tigers game. On TV. Specifically, on the Classic Sports station. Did I mention this was a Tigers game from, like, 1986, that he was yelling at?
· Picking up my new glasses. Not only can I now see things far away without an annoying scratch directly in my field of vision, but the frames make me look satisfyingly like the smarmy real estate agent from Wall Street Kid, who I always thought was pretty cool. "Remember, moron: you've got only two more weeks to buy a house."
· A cheerful robin flitting around in the birdbath in the backyard for about 20 minutes.
· Reading the Temptation Island recaps on Television Without Pity and being embarrassed about how much of the first season (which I watched in its entirety) I actually remember.
· Learning that it was Erica's dog who managed to throw a shoe at her head last night, not Aimee. Aimee's just so naturally empathetic that she apologized to Erica anyway. And it was Erica's dog chewing on the phone that caused it to dial me again.
· An awesome, complimentary e-mail from Mike DeFabio (of The Other Leading Brand fame) about the CD I sent to him containing the final mixes of most of the songs from my new record. He described one song as "They Might Be Kraftwerk"! And a similarly complimentary IM conversation with Jessi about same. Feeling encouraged.
CURRENT MUSIC: Your Favorite Music again.
CURRENT MOOD: Optimism that's trying its best to be genuine.
NUMBER OF TIMES I'VE HAD TO RESTART MY COMPUTER TODAY BECAUSE QUALITY IS JOB ONE AT GATEWAY: No fewer than fifteen!
TIME: 11:29 PM.
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A GREAT QUOTE FROM TONY
MILLIONAIRE: "I really try to be more gentle, poetic, etc., but after
about a half hour of it I just want to BLOW MY FUCKING BRAINS OUT!!!"
TIME: 10:27 AM.
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Sunday, June 22, 2003:
Here's a funny phone conversation I just had. It doesn't really build up to a punchline or anything, but the whole thing made me smile, and I like saving things like this, to remind me of how entertaining it can be to just talk to people sometimes.
TIM (my brother): My friends and I went to a piano bar in Ypsilanti last night that was connected to a dance club and then a sports bar upstairs, all for one cover!
TIM: Yeah, and the piano guys knew, like, every song ever written. They could do any song you requested! It was really cool!
ME: "'Lust for Life'!"
TIM: Ha ha. Anyway, my friend Amy's 19th birthday was- [Call waiting beeps in my ear.]
ME: Tim, hang on- there's another call. [I click the "Flash" button.] Hello?
ERICA: Hi, Chris? It's Erica.
ME: Hey, Erica- what's up?
ERICA: I just wanted to tell you that the Extreme Pain Tournament [Erica's favorite show, on Spike TV.] is on again right now. Apparently, it's on Sundays at 8, if you were having trouble finding it.
ME: Alright, cool! Thanks- it was just on the other night, too, and I was watching it. It must be on Thursdays as well or something.
ERICA: Oh. Well, you've gotta watch it.
ME: Okay, I will! I'm on the other line with my brother, but I'll turn it on as soon as we're done.
ERICA: Oh- and Aimee says hi. She's over here right now.
ME: Hi Aimee.
ERICA: Alright, well, I'll see you tomorrow! Just wanted to tell you that! Bye!
ME: Bye! ["Flash" button again.] Tim?
ME: Sorry about that. Erica called to tell me that Extreme Pain Tournament is on.
ME: It's a show that's kind of like a cross between Iron Chef, What's Up Tiger Lily?, and Fear Factor. It's pretty funny.
TIM: Anyway, my friend Amy's 19th birthday was last night, so she and her brother went to Canada, and they went to Bentley's [a bar] and had a good time, but I guess when they got out and were walking back to their car, there were a bunch of cops beating this guy up in the middle of the road! So Amy's brother, as they walked by, muttered, "Fuck tha police" under his breath, and got arrested!
ME: What? What for?!
TIM: "Causing a disturbance."
ME: That sucks!
TIM: Yeah, so Amy had to pay $500 to bail him out, and he's not allowed back in Canada until he has to go to court.
ME: Whatever. Nice to know that the Canadian police are every bit as ridiculous and corrupt as the cops here.
TIM: No kidding. Hey- is Universal Truths and Cycles by Guided by Voices any good? They've got it on Columbia House.
ME: I don't think you'd like it.
ME: Dude- you wanna hear something funny? You know that part at the end of Swingers where Vince Vaughn thinks that girl is checking him out, but it turns out she's looking at the baby in the seat facing her?
ME: That exact same thing happened to me at Lorenzo's party yesterday! It was- [Call waiting beeps again.] Crap- hang on again. Sorry. ["Flash" button.] Hello? [Nothing but TV noise on the other end of the line.] Hello?
ERICA: [In the distance, apparently unaware that her phone has dialed me.] Owwww!
ERICA: You hit me in the fucking eye with a fucking shoe!
AIMEE: [Sort of apologetic laughing.]
ERICA: Well, I'm gonna have a fine fucking black eye now; that's great!
I'm guessing Aimee's shoe hit the "redial" button on Erica's phone. It's probably not interesting to anyone but me, but I like peeking into other people's lives sometimes. Part of me has always wanted to go to Meijer and just flip through the packs of other people's photos that are waiting to be picked up. Something tells me I'd just wind up depressed, though.
And it also reminds me of the time in middle school when I was babysitting this kid down the road and he hit me in the eye with one of those Nerf arrows. I directed a more-or-less verbatim version of Erica's exclamations at him.
It disgusts me how blatantly biased toward the right even my local FOX affiliate's news broadcasts are. They just did a story (and by "story," I of course mean "45-second collection of sound bites and factoids") about the expected Supreme Court decision this week regarding the University of Michigan's Affirmative Action program. Now, Affirmative Action is an issue I don't really feel qualified to talk about, or even to form an opinion on- as Al Franken wrote in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, it seems to me like an issue on which both its supporters and detractors have some really good points and some utterly dumb ones- but it makes me mad when supposedly non-editorial news segments present only one side of things. This "story" consisted mostly of a summary of a debate on the topic that Fox News aired earlier today, a clip from that debate in which only the anti-AA side was presented, and the local anchor presenting the statistic that "African-American applicants at U of M are given an automatic 20 points toward their admission process. A perfect SAT score will get you only 12 points." Again, I've got mixed feelings on the entire issue, but how can something as one-sided as that be considered "responsible" journalism?
Same way Bill O'Reilly can be considered a responsible journalist even as he describes "entrenched stupidity" as the overriding attribute of the United States' African-American population, I suppose.
CURRENT MUSIC: Tallahassee by Mountain Goats.
CURRENT MOOD: Blase.
SCARIEST WORDS I HEARD TODAY: "John Larroquette and Christine Baranski star in Happy Family, Tuesdays this fall on NBC!"
TIME: 10:32 PM.
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