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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: July 14- July 20, 2003

Thursday, July 17, 2003:

There's an ice cream truck driving around my neighborhood playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise." I have yet to catch a glimpse of it, but I rather hope the driver is wearing a cloak of some sort.

Last night, I went to the Fountains of Wayne show in Detroit. It was fun, and they put on a fine show, though the crowd was populated with your typical concertgoing cliches: the wildly gregarious girl up front who is a huge and vocal fan of the opening act, the stoned jock who muscles his way to the front and starts jumping around during the final encore, etc. (Ben Lee was the opener, and Claire Danes was unfortunately nowhere in sight, but he seems like a nice guy. His music hasn't grown on me any since I saw him opening for Gomez a few months ago, but anyone who can work a "Wha' happened?!" joke into his between-song banter is alright in my book.)

I was supposed to take Aimee to the show, as her birthday present, but she hurt her back really bad a couple days ago and couldn't go. That was very disappointing, but at least she wasn't around to witness me missing my exit to Ann Arbor three times on the way to pick up my brother, and then getting lost in Detroit on the way to St. Andrew's Hall. And also shouting profanity at other drivers, sometimes mocking their vanity plates.

That was also the second concert I attended this week that included a slam on Metallica's St. Anger. That must really be a godawful album.

On the drive to the concert, Tim was telling me about his job in the University of Michigan student bookstore (which is also owned by Barnes & Noble; our parents are very proud). He mentioned that the other day, they received an envelope in the mail addressed to:


Inside were three separate letters, each with a different return address (P.O. boxes in Minnesota and Wisconsin), and written on a typewriter in a style that included such charmingly headache-inducing idiosyncrasies as commas in place of apostrophes, and misspellings galore. From how Tim described the letters, they sounded like either an oblique hello from Ted Kaczynski to his alma mater, or else a strange anthrax delivery method. He said they read something like this:

"i can help you. please send me $65 in advans. i,ll refund or charge more depending on amownt of help i give you. your time spent with me will be invalluble."

Tim said he'd try to procure me a copy of the letters so I could transcribe them accurately. I love random nonsense!

And speaking of random nonsense, Jon and I were skimming this hilarious book called The Big Talk today. It's a book about discussing sex with your kids to instill healthy attitudes in them. It wasn't a religious-based book at all, but for a book that purported to be based on intensive psychological studies, interviews, and surveys, it contained a staggering amount of really unhealthy advice, most of which seemed predicated on the notion that sex is inherently bad, evil, sticky, what have you. There was one appallingly funny section (in the chapter about "Handling Sexual Impulses," which also contains an amusing bit about "The Dangers of Masturbation") that I made a copy of, because I want to have proof that it exists when I mention it to people. It's called "The Potato Chip Game," and I wish it were legal for me to transcribe the entire thing for you here, but I'll summarize it.

Basically, it's an exercise designed to teach kids that making out is bad, bad, bad, because it can lead only to sex, which is wrong and evil and you're dirty for even thinking those thoughts. The author suggests that the parent open the discussion by bringing a bag of the child's favorite potato chips to their little pow-wow, but giving the child only two chips and then grabbing the bag and setting it aside in plain view. The parent is then to ask leading questions about the child's views on making out (what it means, where it leads...), and watch gleefully as the child becomes less and less attentive and starts craving more chips. But every time the kid asks for more chips, "the answer must be no."

After awhile, the parent is to use the chips as a metaphor for making out. The author provides a sample speech, which I simply have to reproduce here because it's too funny not to. (SERVING SUGGESTION: This speech works best if you read it aloud, in an increasingly frantic, unhinged voice like the narrator of "Popular" by Nada Surf.) "Making out is just like eating potato chips. When you have just one chip, you want more. You crave more. Sometimes you think you're going to die if you don't get more. And you can hardly concentrate on anything else. You can't focus on building a beautiful relationship with the person; you don't spend many hours talking and finding out what's important to that person or if she's even right for you. You can't concentrate on school or studies. You just become obsessed with making out, and then going further. And the intimacy becomes less special and meaningful when it becomes a routine part of a relationship that isn't based on love and commitment."

It didn't specify whether the kid should actually get more chips after this little discussion or not. I'm guessing no. At any rate, I'm choosing not to think about how awful and fucked-up it would be for a kid who was raised by parents who followed the advice in this book to the letter, and just focus on the funny. (Author Laurie Langford seems to think that parents should be talking about sex with their kids- er, "talking with their kids about sex," that should say- on a practically weekly basis. In much the same way that those Parker Bros. commercials think parents should institute a weekly "Board Game Night" using only Parker Bros. brand games. Only more awkward.)

CURRENT MUSIC: The Age of Plastic by the Buggles.
CURRENT MOOD: Weird nervous feeling like I've done something horrible and wrong, and am about to be caught. Don't know why.
TIME: 9:35 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, July 14, 2003:

Today, I spotted the first Segway Human Transporter I've ever seen being used in real life. I was driving to my credit union, and I saw this stoic business guy who looked like any other stoic business guy: mid-50s, gray hair and beard, brown suit, furrowed look on his brow as though he's deep in thought about the Jenkins account, hole at the center of his being where a soul should be... Yup, just like any other business boy, except for the fact that he's standing still on this self-propelled, Fisher-Price-lookin' contraption that's puttering along the grass by the side of the road, with his tie flapping in the breeze. He reminded me of that one Far Side where there are a bunch of cheetahs zipping around on their hind legs, doing wheelies, and looking rather silly. I giggled the rest of the way to the credit union, because I imagined his coworkers mocking him by all riding to work on unicycles tomorrow.

Last night, Tim and I went to see Neil Hamburger at the Magic Stick (and my friend Nick from Music Babble met us there too!). He was predictably hilarious, treating the crowd to a lengthy string of inappropriate, bewilderingly odd, or otherwise horrible jokes that was broken frequently by self-loathing asides and swigs from one of the four vodka-and-tonics he held, crushed against his chest for the entire show. If you've never been exposed to Mr. Hamburger, you'll think I'm a moron for saying that one of the smartest and funniest comedy routines I've ever seen consisted mostly of jokes like, "What did Ferris Bueller do on his day off? He posed for nude photographs for actor Jeffrey Jones!" But Nick, Tim, and I were cackling like loons throughout his entire set. Assuming loons cackle.

The opening act, Canned Hamm, was every bit as awesome. There's really no way to describe them, so I insist you go to their website and look around- or better yet, go see them live. However, I will say this: If I go to a concert, and one of the singers- specifically, a sweaty, skinny, squirrelly Canadian guy- strips down to a pair of leopard-print boxers onstage, leaps into the audience, runs over to my table, and clutches me in a 30-second embrace while singing a song that carries the refrain "Won't you take a bubble bath with me?"... I come away from that concert satisfied.

Is there anything interesting happening in the news? I haven't had a chance to read about what's been going on this past week, because I'm already far too tired and drained to spare any energy for righteous anger. Have the demons that control Ann Coulter burst gruesomely out of her skin yet?

CURRENT MUSIC: Karazma Reimagined, the Canned Hamm tribute album I bought last night.
CURRENT MOOD: Caffeine withdrawl.
LAST BOOK FINISHED: The 1963 book Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? by Jimmy Breslin, a droll-yet-sympathetic look at the '62 Mets, who hold the undisputed title of Worst Team in the History of Baseball. Until this season's over, anyway. I stopped caring about baseball in elementary school, but Breslin's book perfectly captures the feeling of stunned betrayal that struck the nation when it became clear for the first time that money had become bigger than the game. Having grown up taking that for granted, it was heartbreaking revelation for me to read Breslin's pained vituperating of baseball's greedy owners, as he feels baseball's innocence as a pastime slipping through his fingers. Not only that, but Breslin's descriptive talents can turn a simple flubbed play- of the sort that might occupy five unremarkable seconds on an ESPN blooper reel- into a giddy, three-page mini-farce that ranks with the best Inspector Clouseau routines. It's a quick read, too. Definitely worth checking out.
TIME: 11:14 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.