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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: August 31- September 6, 2003

Wednesday, September 3, 2003:

Today, I took a journey to Meijer and picked up my photos from New York and several places since I visited New York. (Very few photos bear repeating, because my lack of skills as a music journalist spills over into my lack of skills as a photographer. And as a botanist, an etymologist, an entomologist, a nuclear technician, and lieutenant governor of Michigan. Sorry, voters!) Anyway, enjoy the following:

Left-to-right: The first picture I took in NYC because I thought it would be amusingly ironic. However, I'm not exactly Annie Liebowitz. Therefore, you can't really tell that the cop car on the left of the pic has its gumballs flashing as I stood in front of the "LOVE" statue on the Avenue of the Americas. (Crimony, I wish Adrienne had been there with me. Seems like she would've been able to guide me). The picture on the right is of the building that I thought- for a second- was the United Nations. It's not. I don't know what it is, unfortunately, but I still kind of like the mosaic in the picture. Can anyone enlighten me?

We'll see how well this picture turns out. I'll describe the people pictured from left to right. In the black, sleeveless dress ("Besleeve yourself, strumpet!") is Gina, my friend who now lives in Seattle. Then there's Aimee, who is smiling in a much too enthusiastic fashion, since she truly believes that the world is okay- one point on which she and I disagree entirely. Then there's me. I'm wearing a Pernice Brothers T-shirt that reads, "I hate my life," even though you can't read it. I'm wearing it both because I think they're one of the best bands of the past ten years and because I wholeheartedly stand by the sentiment. The orange dress shirt is one of the ones I got for 99 cents in New York. I suck. To my left (your right) is Jessi, with whom I went to the Radiohead concert that's described on my entry of August 24. And to her left is Lorenzo. Sweet, silly Lorenzo.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch the copy of Pollock that Jon lent me and has been patient to a superhuman degree waiting to get it back. I watched Patton on Sunday (and totally dug it: "I shoulda kissed the sunuvabitch!"), so this is the next one in my series of Biopics Based on Men Whose Last Name Begins with the Letter P. Up next: Nobody in This House Ordered Any Millipedes: The Sidney Poitier Story.

CURRENT MUSIC: Feng Shui by Q-Burns Abstract Message.
"Mood" implies a less-than-permanent quality.
5:59 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, September 2, 2003:

Ben sent me a copy of The Watchmen by Alan Moore for my birthday (after getting jerked around by Amazon for a couple months), and I finished reading it tonight. Generally, I get annoyed and bored with superhero stories- or anything else that could be classified as sci-fi or fantasy or anything within that realm- because I'm more interested in stories that are more realistic and easy to relate to. However, I loved Watchmen. Ben told me in advance that it's really not your typical superhero deal, and he was right: it's like Moore was consciously trying to write a superhero comic for people who dislike superhero comics. Like me! (Kind of like how Chicago is palatable even to people who usually despise musicals. Also like me.) There's really not that much supernatural hocus-pocus-alamagocus in it, given that most of the superheroes aren't really "super" in any way, but rather are just really strong and wear costumes for reasons as varied as PR stunts and sexual gratification. It's all based in a semi-plausible alternate reality of New York City in 1985, too, which helps to anchor some of the goofier conceits and not make them a big deal.

I'm always moved by portrayals of the end of the world, too. (Er, almost always. Left Behind: The Movie didn't exactly have me furtively brushing tears from my cheeks. Tears of laughter notwithstanding.) Like the poem "Darkness" by Lord Byron, or the middle portion of Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland, or "Noble Experiment" by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Something about the idea of the world reaching a crescendo of panic and chaos, only to be cut off abruptly by a horrible, silent nothing really appeals to me. Perhaps because I'm so horrified and saddened and disgusted by the world every day that my image of things really isn't that far off from the godless, crumbling rot that's often presented in these apocalyptic stories, and the notion of it all grinding to a halt really doesn't seem so bad.

I'm not trying to say we're living in the End Times or anything. But as I've said before, there's sadness everywhere and it's too much to handle. Mark e-mailed me this afternoon to tell me that he's discovered how wonderful Sigur Ros is, and that prompted me to pull out ( ) again, since I haven't listened to it in a few months. I'd forgotten how much beauty is in that album. But it's a really sad beauty, like love itself is being torn to shreds and pleading for its life. It's still love, which makes it gorgeous and benevolent and as selfless as The Giving Tree, but you know it's going to lose the battle, so it's every bit as heartbreaking as it is inspiring.

For some reason, ( ) then reminded me of a story Jen once told me from when she was in elementary school. Some popular girl (we'll call her Brittany because I don't know her real name) was having a birthday party, and invited all the girls in her class. One girl (who we'll call Tania) came from a family that was poorer than those of the other invited girls, and couldn't afford to buy the birthday girl a gift on her allowance. So Tania decided that, instead of buying a gift, she would give Brittany a stuffed bear that she'd owned as far back as she could remember. The bear really meant a lot to Tania, and had been sort of a surrogate friend all her life, and it was an amazingly sweet and giving gesture that she'd be willing to part with him for Brittany, but Tania hoped that the bear would make Brittany as happy as he had made her all these years.

So, naturally, Tania was laughed out of the party when she gave the bear to Brittany. She was forced to leave in tears, amid jeers of, "That's not a real gift; it didn't cost any money!" and, "Look how old it is! Gross!"

Jen also recently told me about this macaw that she rescued (she works for an avian rescue place now, finding good homes for abused and neglected birds), whose name I think was Tobey. Jen says he's a really sweet, friendly bird. His owners had asked their neighbors to babysit him while the owners went on vacation, and while Tobey was in the neighbors' care, their teenage son and his friend poked out both of Tobey's eyes with a paper clip, so he's totally blind now.

Practically started crying at work because Biscuit is Thankful just seemed too, too nice to exist in this world, and cheerful kids' books at this point seem as unrealistic to me as the aforementioned superhero comics. Only the kids' books try to be realistic, which is even sadder... Actually did start crying while watching The Learning Channel the other night, and there was a promo for that Urban Legends show that depicted a guinea pig being unintentionally covered up by a rug and then smashed flat with a hammer by the homeowner. I hate it here, I hate it here, I hate it here.

At work today, apropos of nothing, Erica proclaimed, "Rebecca Romijn-Stamos strikes me as someone who just takes really big shits all the time. I can't even picture most women sitting on a toilet, but with her, it's really easy for me to imagine that she's just really dirty and just shits and farts all over the place." I had to laugh to prevent my head from caving in with the sheer randomness of that statement.

CURRENT MUSIC: The Private Press by DJ Shadow.
Chipper. In the Fargo sense.
Alanna, who suggested "Pip." My Ion shall henceforth be referred to as Pip (in a British accent, but I guess you'll have to imagine that). As winner of the contest, Alanna will be receiving a $20 gift certificate from Franklin Covey, your headquarters for Bringing Work Home with You Every Night™. The gift certificate will be paid in 25 equal installments over 25 years. Congratulations, Alanna, and thanks for playing! Other participants may receive consolation prizes donated by Nature's Platform, or the Name Willie's New Car home game (which consists of a book of baby names and a bottle of scotch).
Written at about 8:50 PM, but not published till 11:36 because I got caught up in Playmakers and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Doot? | |

Monday, September 1, 2003:

This afternoon, I noticed that several of the onions in my crisper have begun sprouting long, green tentacles because they've been in there for quite some time. (Is that what scallions are? I didn't venture to taste them.) So I planted three of the creatures in the yard, just to see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning and organizing my bedroom, going through the crap in my desk, and emptying the Rubbermaid tubs that have served as a catch-all for my journals, sketches, trinkets, and other miscellaneous items for many, many years. There were lots of fun treasures in there I'd totally forgotten about. Like my Little Black Revenge Book from high school, in which I listed the name, address, and phone number of everyone who had wronged me! And innumerable cartoons of my middle school gym teacher meeting his untimely end! Ah, good times...

Among the coolest things I found was a cache of letters from ninth grade that my friend Devan and I had written. Not to each other, but to a kid named Brian in Ohio whom we'd been harassing through the mail. He was the former neighbor of a girl named Jenny, who was in Algebra class with Devan and me. Seems Brian had a bit of a thing for Jenny, and kept writing her pleading high school letters begging for her devotion, so she gave Devan and me his address, knowing our fondness for monkeyshines. We immediately began spending every single math class writing a collection of nonsensical, ominous, or silly letters addressed directly to him. I would then mail the letters to my friend Matt, who was toking his way through a military school education in Indiana, and he would then mail the letters to Brian from there, so the postmark couldn't be traced back to Jenny. (Not that Devan and I cared about getting her in trouble; we just thought it would be funnier if he started getting random letters from Indiana.)

So we sent Brian a couple letters per week, and eventually our project was mentioned in the community newspaper of Brian's town, after his family called the police. (Brian sent Jenny a copy of the article; the headline was something like "Odd Letters Received.") I thought that reaction was a bit extreme. Even though we never said anything threatening to him, however, I guess he didn't find hilarity in a bunch of letters that, for instance, purported to be from the government of Norway, demanding to be reimbursed for all the fjords he'd broken on his recent trip to the country. This went on for a few months until we lost interest, and I never bothered sending all the other letters we'd accumulated. So here are three of the funnier ones that were left over:

LETTER 1: [This is a folded-in-half piece of paper that's meant to resemble a greeting card. On the front cover is a crude rendering of the Bic Pen logo, and this text:] Hi, Brianer              ! I'm the Bic™ Pen Man, and I carry a special Get-Well message from      Ghandi 'n' the Fam          .

[Inside is another drawing of the Bic Pen logo, and the following checklist:] We hope you soon recover from your (CHECK ALL THAT APPLY):

     Drive-by Shooting            Mauled by Bears               Bee Attack             X  Exploding Get-Well Card               Too Much Bigfoot™ Racing
     Getting Drunk and Drowning in Lake Erie               Bludgeoning               Lighthouse diving accident            X  Rear Venereal Disease
     Accidental Exposure to Full House               Anal-Retentiveness               Accidental Exposure to Asbestos            X  Pelican in Pants
     Fire in Pants               Fire in Pelican               Problem Flatulence               Hobby Flatulence               Gun-Cleaning Accident
     Disembowelment            X  Stupidity               Brain Slammed in Car Door               Swallowing Urinal Cake            X  Wrath of God
     Hershey's Kiss™ Inhalation               Porcelain Plate               Southern Accent            X  Shrunken Genetalia            X  Hermaphroditism
     Leprosy ($5.00 EXTRA CHARGE POSTAGE & HANDLING)               Telescoping Spine               Uromisitisis Poisoning
     Flogging               Stoning               Keel-Hauling               Booting               Heresy            X   Sporking               Stuck in Ventilation Duct
     Pillaging               Naval Discharge               Air Force Discharge               Heart Murmur               Heart Babble            X  Bulimia
     Bolivia               Korean Food               Koreans               Rioting Opera Singers               Asphyxiation               Swollen Membranes
     Idiot Savantism               Loitering               Red Rum               Scarlet Fever               Beige Fever               Epstein-Barr with a Twist of Lyme Disease

Love,      Ghandi 'n' the Fam     !

[And this is written in tiny letters on the back:] Bic™ Cards. A division of Bic™ Lighters, Bic™ Pens, Bic™ Razors, Bic™ Novelty Baseball Caps, Bic™ Communist Propaganda, Bic™ Urinal Fruit, Bic™ Dental Rubber Bands, Bic™ Stilts, Bic™ Skillets, Bic™ Diagrams to Show You Which Way to Put Batteries in Something, Bic™ Marital Aides, Bic™ Riboflavin, Bic™ Mr. DNA Machines, and Bic™ Aquatread Tires. All a division of Mrs. Field's Cookies.

LETTER 2: My Dear Brian,

It has been my pleasure receiving a letter of yours recently, Brian. That you are interested in my course, I am happy indeed. Though you, Brian, will be aware that the course is not costless, I believe it is worth every penny, you will find. Brian, as I wager you were wondering about, my course is not actually a course at all. It is in actuality a book, Brian. Tungla Hasnapeenalan Gives Away Secrets of the Universe will be an invaluable contribution to your home library of yours. What is the learning that you wish to know, Brian?

·How it is that you would receive abilities to hold seances and channel the likes of Jackie Mason through you? The answer lies on page 68.

·Is it that your liking would be to time travel back and take credit for the electricity invention? See page 24.

·Perhaps Ohio is too cold for you and you would like to see the Earth moved closer to the sun? See page 88.

·Be it maybe that you would wish to emit high-pitched beams from the ears of you to alert all skunks in the city? See page 74.

Brian, perfectly I am willing to send my book toward you, and I shall. There will be no payments on to pay off the book until January, 1996. If the book is unsatisfactory you find before then, Brian, simply return at no additional cost, the book to me. All that is needed for you to do is fill out the enclosed card and mail it back. Simply white out the address on the card and replace it with the address on this letter at the top, Brian.

Your humble servant,
Tungla Hasnapeenalan

[I wrote this one. The letter was based on an amusing series of junk mail ads I'd started receiving after purchasing something advertised in the Weekly World News in eighth grade. Each of the letters I'd received claimed to be from a swami or soothsayer of some sort, who explained in a Yoda-esque pattern of confused syntax that he'd written a book in which you could learn the answers to all the mysteries of the universe. Oh- and the "enclosed card" that I mentioned in the letter to Brian was an advertisement for Rogaine that had been attached.]

LETTER 3: Dear Brian,

I'm so sorry that our relationship didn't work out as we had planned. Due to my weeping as I write, the letter will be difficult to read. The main reason I'm involved with them dago mobsters is because of powerful narcotics.

Luv ya,

[I'm pretty sure Devan wrote this one.]

That's it. *sigh* I used to be so funny...

CURRENT MUSIC: Get Happy!! by Elvis Costello.
CURRENT MOOD: Elvis Costello-y.
YOU KNOW WHAT SHOULD BE THE FIRST LESSON THEY TEACH YOU AT ACTING SCHOOL? How to sneeze convincingly. I'm sick of actors (mostly on TV) just literally saying, "Ah-choo!" when they're pretending to sneeze.
7:20 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, August 31, 2003:

Today, I went to meet with my friend Laural, who's designing the artwork for The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss. (It's almost done. It's just taking awhile because Laural works an ungodly number of hours at the movie theater, and also because the image files I'd given her weren't always of the highest quality.) Even though she wasn't feeling well, and I was horribly tired, it was fun and productive. And even more importantly, Laural burned me a copy of a two-disc Radiohead live bootleg from their appearance at the Field Day Festival in June. It's one of the highest quality bootlegs I've ever heard; if it weren't for the occasional murmuring of some guy next to the recording device, I might've thought the bootlegger had a line into the soundboard. Lots of great songs they didn't do at the Wisconsin show, too: "I Might Be Wrong," "Climbing Up the Walls," etc. If you can find a copy of this recording, it makes for a pretty good Radiohead double-live experience. However, I looked at a set list for the show, and the second disc for some reason cuts off before "Myxomatosis," "Talk Show Host," and "How to Disappear Completely." Does anyone know where I could download those three?

Weather permitting, there will be an actual interesting journal entry at some point tomorrow. And I'll leave Radiohead out of it, I promise.

CURRENT MOOD: Hoping the despair will numb me eventually.
Gardenburger brand meatless Riblets are frickin' delicious. (Lots of great pro-animal, pro-environment information on their site, too.)
11:40 PM.

Doot? | |

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