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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: July 2-July 23, 2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005:

New review of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss, this time from J. C. Carnahan, in Impact Press:

"Chris Willie Williams is the insecure mind behind Disclaimer. A lo-fi minimalist sound about rejection, alienation and failure is strewed all over this release. It's hard to digest the nerdiness throughout though; various noises are used as musical backdrops to the clever and intriguing lyrics about the heartache in the life of Williams. His choice of words in lines like 'so I'll pop some blister-paks while you start your post-navel drip, breakin' up is hard to do, but breakin' down is easy' are the most intriguing part to this offering, if there even are any intriguing parts. The music is simply unbearable."

Doot?

Saturday, July 9, 2005:

I realized this week that I'm aware of what my parents' house smells like when I visit, because it's been so long since I've lived there that I'm no longer used to the scent.

That's one of the saddest realizations I've ever made. There's no more pretending I'm not an adult.

CURRENT MOOD: Old, dammit.
MOST HORRIFIC LINE I HEARD ON CNN DURING THEIR COVERAGE OF THE LONDON ATTACKS ON THURSDAY:
"You've gotta think that if this had happened yesterday, there would've been no question that London would get the Olympic games."
TIME:
9:08 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, July 2, 2005:

It would probably be good for my mental health to stop caring about politics. The announcement of Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement yesterday really threw me off my game of holding it together emotionally. Miss Alli's post on the matter at This is Not Over makes a good case both for having a glimmer of hope and for respecting the way O'Connor practiced law, and although her participation in handing the 2000 election to The Turd is naturally unforgivable, she's been on the dissenting side for enough of the Court's recent crap rulings that the thought of her being replaced with another Clarence Thomas or Anton Scalia makes me want to vomit in terror. Which she will be, because Bush will nominate some completely unacceptable conservative activist judge for the position, Bill Frist and Tom DeLay will start making pre-emptive tirades about how the Democrats had damn well better give the nominee an up-or-down vote if the Dems want to keep their right to filibuster, the Democrats will defiantly filibuster for about 15 minutes, then declare victory, step back, and let the nominee toddle on up to the highest bench in the land while congratulating themselves on proving their relevance in this glorious compromise.

But I'm not saying anything you don't already know, and that's not what I want to address. Because none of that is about me. My problem is that I have a tendency to take world events personally, to a paralyzing degree. Those who've known me for awhile can remember my full-blown obsession with the build-up to war in spring of 2003: my inability to talk about anything else for weeks on end, the constant weeping, the surprisingly efficient accompanying slide into alcoholism, etc. This was a problem that lasted a long time. Every time something bad happened, which was constantly, I wouldn't just be outraged as a citizen, but I would feel betrayed on a personal level, as if I'd discovered that my own likeness was being used for hate propaganda, and I wouldn't be able to pay attention to anything else in my life.

However, since The Turd stole the 2004 election, which was basically the last straw, I'd been doing pretty well at staying informed without letting my mental state spiral down the yellow charity funnel (to borrow a great image from Jugdish). Every time things seemed hopeless on a worldwide scale, I tried to take a step back, look around me, and employ the old "be here now" technique; i.e., trying to focus on the silly, transitory beauty of life, remembering that no matter how many hateful things there are in the Western world (the strong mercilessly pummeling the weak, unlistenable Oasis albums), none of it will last forever, and there's no point in fixating on it to a degree that I forget about the things that make me happy, or the sheer, hilarious absurdity of this world. After all, what am I getting from life if I can't laugh at something like suddenly noticing that I actually own a meat tenderizer? 

The Lexapro hasn't hurt either.

But now I seem to be backsliding, and it's discouraging enough that it makes me want to give up on being politically informed altogether. I sincerely doubt it's going to happen, because I keep up on events as much because I find 'em interesting as because I feel obligated to, but let me make the devil's advocate argument for giving up and tuning out, and see what you all think:

To paraphrase an interesting point David Cross recently made in MAGNET, I personally don't have nearly as much at stake as a lot of other people in this country do. I'm white. I'm male. I'm heterosexual. I have no kids and won't be siring any in the future. No one in my immediate family is in the military. I'm essentially Christian: not in the bigoted, Manifest Destiny sense of the term that seems to be the only one that matters to this administration, I'll grant you, but my beliefs hardly run afoul of fundamentalist government buttholes to the degree that, say, Wiccans' do. My fiancee has a job that pays her a wage that keeps her comfortable (as do I, for the next week and a half, and I hope to have one again after I move to Maine), with plenty of nice medical benefits that I will be able to horn in on once we're married. I'm in fine physical health. I'm not trying to say that I'm unaffected by the government's policies and decisions, mind you, but simply that the potential dip in my quality of life in this country is much smaller than that of many.

Yet a lot of the people whose rights, livelihoods, and futures are being stepped on seem to care about it much less than I do. Not all of them. Not even most of them. Just enough of them that it's unsettling. There are gay Republicans, black Republicans, Republicans whose loved ones have diseases that could potentially be eradicated by stem cell research, and, of course, a dispiriting number of Republicans who've spawned... and regardless of whether you agree with the concept of "smaller government" (which is the bullet-riddled defense they always seem to use), why would you align yourself with a party that so clearly hates you yourself or at least is not out for your best interests? (Not that the Democratic party is particularly admirable at this point either, of course, but they're more guilty of inaction than anything.) The big philosophical question, therefore, is this: a lot of lefties like myself get a smug sense of pride from giving lip service to the idea of "protecting those who can't protect themselves," but are we obligated to protect those who won't protect themselves?

The easy answer is yes, we are. It's easy to say that those who stand by the very politicians who are screwing them over need to be educated about what's really going on, and they need to learn the difference between the Right pretending to do them a favor as they wipe out a "death tax" that would never affect them, and actually making their lives tremendously difficult by ladling out enormous tax breaks for the rich while claiming that federal unemployment numbers are wholly misleading because positions in the fast food industry should be listed as "manufacturing" jobs and they don't count people who sell things on eBay. It's easy to point out, perhaps overdramatically, that Hitler's rise in power was largely the result of similar demagoguery- distracting the German people by telling them that their economic woes were due to the Jews (or liberals and ill-defined "terrorists," as we're constantly told) while working a far more sinister agenda- and that it's the duty of those of us who can see through the smokescreen to make as much noise about it as we can. Those who can't remember the past blah yadda etc. That's an easy point of view to take, and given that it's clear that the American people are being lied to and that people are dying unnecessarily and solely for the benefit of the richest of the rich, it's not an unjustified position. It's my position. As you've all had to hear about time and time again.

But what if my position and actions are doing me, personally, more damage than is being made up in... positive effects, whatever I hope they are? I know it's intolerably annoying to be a martyr about politics, but it's been drilled into me, from all sides, since elementary school, that it's my duty as an American to stay informed, to vote, to make my voice heard, to write to my Congressperson, to take full advantage of the democratic rights I have as a citizen of this nation. Well, when I live in a nation whose "news" consists of miles of column space devoted to meaningless piffle like Michael Jackson and some missing girl in Aruba, the accuracy of voting systems is unverifiable because the underlying technology is conveniently seen as "proprietary information," we have a "president" who dismisses worldwide anti-war protests that are millions strong because he claims not "to decide policy based upon a focus group," letters to my Congressional representatives are ignored or acknowledged via wishy-washy form letters, and I can be made to exercise my rights solely within easily ignorable "free speech zones," can I really be said to have any duty to this country, to which my personal importance can be summed up in the phrase "fuck-all"?

Or is this one of those situations to which Richard Linklater referred when he gave us that tantalizing cop-out, "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy"? Because I'm well aware of the argument that giving up is exactly what "they" want me to do- to throw up my hands and stop even attempting to fight for change because I don't feel there's the possibility of goodness prevailing at this point- but if the elected officials who are supposedly on my side (Dems) are just going to give up, let Bush pack the courts with backward misanthropes, do nothing about the ever-clearer fact that we're waging a war based on falsified evidence, let allegations of tampering with the electoral process go uninvestigated, and so forth... what chance do I have at making a difference?

Again, the question is mostly academic because I'm naturally drawn to the news, and even though self-preservation dictates I should back away, I doubt I could even if I wanted to. I'm just very frustrated at the moment because I thought I'd gotten beyond this ludicrous, emo mental block that prohibits me from seeing anything but imminent doom for about three days every time the government does anything. Basically, I kindly ask our elected/appointed officials to please stop doing horrible things, so I'll feel better. It's very easy.

And the mention of David Cross brings me to a completely different subject: I'm planning on picking up a few comedy albums in the next week or so to keep me company on my upcoming 15-hour relocation drive. Some people listen to audiobooks to "improve" their "minds" while they're in the car, but those things are too expensive for my liking and the one-way nature of my trip would make checking them out of the library irresponsible. I'm planning on grabbing that Patton Oswalt album that everyone says is amusing, and probably something by Todd Barry, or Scharpling & Wurster if I can find them, but if anyone has any other suggestions for funny albums with reasonable relistening value (i.e., not funny in the MACHINA/The Machines of God way, but funny on purpose), I'd appreciate them. And please bear in mind that Bill Hicks is not funny.

CURRENT MUSIC: The Slow-Motion World of Snowpony by Snowpony.
CURRENT MOOD:
Looking forward to moving to Maine, where there are no newspapers.
WANNA SEE SOMETHING INCREDIBLY DISORIENTING? The Zoom Quilt. The love child of M. C. Escher, H. R. Giger, and a Super Furry Animals video.
TIME: 10:06 PM.

Doot? | |

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