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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: September 7-September 13, 2003

Saturday, September 13, 2003:

The bacteria CD experiment was rather underwhelming. It must be hard to get just the right coating of yogurt and beer on the disc that will still allow it to play, but also sound interesting. It took me a few tries, and the only difference in sound I got was a weird clicking noise in the background on a couple tracks. Kind of a disappointment. However, the cup of organic yogurt I purchased had a sweepstakes on the lid that offered a Segway transporter as the grand prize. So it wasn't a total loss, as you may soon see me merrily tooling around town at a sensible pace, dodging pop cans being thrown from passing cars as I glide down the sidewalk without getting actual exercise.

Today was the big Univeristy of Michigan/Notre Dame football game, apparently- and my damn wiener friends went tailgating without me. My brother was excited that ESPN's Gameday was going to be broadcast from the golf course near the stadium, where all the tailgating parties go on. I watched the show, to see if Tim was going to be on camera, and someone in the background was holding up a sign reading, "Lee Corso is a drunk." I thought that was pretty funny.

Saw American Splendor today. It was fun.

CURRENT MUSIC: Wrong-Eyed Jesus! by Jim White.
CURRENT IRRITATING ENGLISH-MAJOR FIXATION: You know how, on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Kyan always tells the straight guys to do something to their hair that sounds like "zhoojzh"? What's the actual word he's saying and how is it spelled?
10:43 PM.

Doot? | |

Friday, September 12, 2003:

For those who've been paying attention the past couple weeks, I thought I'd update you on a couple things:

1) Stacie still hasn't made me a copy of that letter she found in the parking lot, but she says it's incredibly entertaining and will be worth the wait. She's going to give me a copy on Monday (supposedly), and I'll transcribe it for you then.

2) The sprouting onions I transplanted to my yard from my crisper are thriving, I think. How can you tell? Its tentacles are sticking straight up out of the ground like the healthy-looking fellows from Super Mario Bros. 2, rather than the droopy things they were when I planted them, so I figure that's good, right?

In other news, I'm growing bacteria on a copy of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss with a mixture of yogurt and beer- as suggested by this article- to see if any interesting organic remixes result. I'm going to let it all dry overnight and then see how it sounds. I hope it's weird! If anything really cool results, I'll post an MP3.

CURRENT MOOD: Experimental. A festering cauldron of experimental, in fact.
TIME: 3:51 PM.

Doot? | |

Thursday, September 11, 2003:

Last night was more concert fun with Jess! We went to the Magic Stick in Detroit to see Denali and Rainer Maria. As well as some local opening band whose name I didn't catch. Devil something. They were pretty good.

Before the show, we ate at the Little Tree Sushi Bar in Royal Oak- which is also where I'd eaten with Adrienne on Tuesday. There, Adrienne gave me a lengthy- and ultimately futile- lesson in the proper gripping of chopsticks, before suggesting that I may physically lack finger dexterity because I just can't do it. That sounds about right. Luckily, the waitress brought me a fork before I was forced to just stuff noodles into my mouth with my hands. And yesterday, with Jessi, the waitress just brought a fork without me even having to ask, which was either very polite or condescending of her, in an I-can-tell-he-can't-use-chopsticks-and-frankly-I'm-amazed-he-managed-to-get-here-without-falling-into-an-open-manhole sort of way. Good food, as always.

At the Magic Stick- which has been around since Lil' Kim was in short thongs, just so you know- Jess and I waited outside for 40 minutes or so. She told me about the time last summer that she and her sister decided it would be funny to decorate their parents' house for Christmas at three AM. So they pulled the Christmas tree up from the basement, strung it with lights, placed paper snowmen in all the windows, etc. When her parents awoke in the morning, her mom's first thought was that the house was possessed, as they'd made liberal use of religious paraphernalia. I told Jess about the time a couple years ago when this guy almost kicked my ass in the elevator at the CCS dorms, because I'd pushed all the elevator buttons before he got on. (And yet, I continued to ride the elevator up with him...) Pranks are fun.

Fast-forwarding. Denali played a great set. Fever dream electronics, tidal waves of guitar, and a satisfying mix of pounding drums and mechanical percussion all added up to a gorgeously unhappy backing for Maura Davis's beautiful- yet pained- voice. Great as their self-titled album is, songs like the bone-crushing "Relief" really should be heard live. The intensity of their performance made me feel like the entire venue was lodged in the belly of a huge whale, and we were just waiting to be dissolved as we drowned in its gastric juices. (That's a good thing in this case, if that wasn't clear.) They played lots of great new stuff, too: one song started off sounding like a musical EKG and kept building until it became a fast, demented surf-rock number. I wish their set had been twice as long as it was. Bands like Denali are the reason that I can't take bands like The Swans seriously, because the former manages to conjure up a mood of inexpressable sorrow and anguish just by slightly tweaking the elements of what makes up a rock song. The Swans, however, go so overboard in their effort to be sad and gloomy and dark that it becomes hilariously cartoonish. Download the song "A Hanging" to see what I mean.

Rainer Maria was next. I'd never heard their music before, but I'd somehow picked up the vague notion that they were kind of a mopey downer band. Possibly I was thinking of Blonde Redhead (who I like, but nevertheless: mopey downer band). At any rate, I was totally misinformed. They played a really energetic, upbeat kind of indie-rock that gave off the same uplifting vibes as bands like the Fastbacks and Mates of State. The sort of band that's a riot even when the lyrics are sad. And, oh, the stage antics. The antics! Guitarist Kyle Fischer and bassist Caithlin de Marrais most of the concert merrily jumping around, doing goofy dances during the songs. (Kyle's style: The Sims impersonating Pete Townshend. Caithlin's style: Hopscotch at the Ministry of Silly Walks.) Between songs, they told jokes, playfully sniped at one another, and took an informal poll about whether they thought Kyle's backing vocals worked on one song: "Don't be afraid to be honest," he said. "I was going for kind of an R.E.M. thing, where you don't really listen to the backing vocals, but the fact that they're there just makes the whole thing more... shimmery!" It's been a long time since I've seen a band have that much fun on stage, and it was a total blast.

Jess then drove me back to Royal Oak, where my car was parked. On the way, we listened to the Langley Schools Music Project. Those songs always make me envision that the kids involved are all paired off into little rowboats for two, cheerfully singing even as they row themselves over a waterfall. There's something really haunting about it.

I had absolutely brutal dreams last night. Perhaps it's because, immediately before going to bed, I ate a big wad of leftover tofu yakiudon, took a shower, and went to sleep in a puddle of my own wet hair. But at any rate, I dreamed that I went over to Jen's apartment to drop off some stuff, and she promptly mugged me for drug money, as she'd become a strung-out cokehead like someone out of Requiem for a Dream. (Or, as my dim ex-coworker Shannon called it, Rec Room for a Dream.) Then, when I went back outside, this guy Diedrich- who I used to know in high school- and two flunkies were standing around my car, trying to look tough. I told them to get out of my way, and they all started kicking the car, leaving dents everywhere. Naturally, I had to defend Pip's honor, so I started beating the crap out of them, one by one, in an appallingly violent fashion. One guy, for instance, had fallen to the ground, and I grabbed him by the hair and started grinding his face into the gravel, back and forth until the ground was bloody and his right eye had burst. I remember stabbing one of the other guys like 100 times with something, too... It was an unsettling dream. Perhaps I have rage issues that I'm not aware of.

I should emphasize here that Jen isn't a strung-out cokehead in real life. Huffing White-Out fumes and freon is really more her thing.

Alright, not really.

Mushroom MUSHROOM!

CURRENT MUSIC: Yoko by Beulah. Am I out of order in calling this their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? In that it's more about textures than songwriting, and the textures aren't always that interesting?
"Hi    gv wrxep rmr"
7:37 PM.

Doot? | |

Wednesday, September 10, 2003:

I watched The Winslow Boy last night. Period pieces usually aren't my thing, but this one had an intelligent, subtle screenplay (and patient direction) by David Mamet, a moving performance by Nigel Hawthorne and typically smart work by Rebecca Pidgeon. It's slow-moving, but it's never boring; I liked it a lot.

And yet what's the work of art whose praises I will be singing to everyone for the rest of the day? "Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger MUSHROOM MUSHROOM!"

TIME: 4:22 PM

Doot? | |

Monday, September 8, 2003:

At work, I was in the cafe getting some coffee, and while I was standing in line- totally zoned out from lack of caffeine- I heard the person in line next to me say, "Hey!" So I turned around and it was Adrienne! I hadn't even known that she was going to be in town, but I guess she has this week off between semesters, and wanted to show up at the bookstore to surprise me. So I took a break, and we sat and talked for about a half hour, which was great. 

At one point, she suggested to me that maybe I wouldn't be so depressed all the time if I started eating in a more sensible fashion so that my blood sugar wasn't out of whack. (Specifically, perhaps my typical 6 PM binging shouldn't be the only meal of the day.) That hadn't occurred to me before. "I'll have to think about that," I said.

"Well, try to actually do something about it," she grinned. "A lot of the time, I get the impression that when I say things, you just think about them and never act on them."

So starting tomorrow, I'm going to get up early and try eating breakfast, and a healthy one at that. (Fruity Pebbles are part of a nutritious breakfast, right? Don't I remember Fred Flintstone saying that at some point?) We'll see if that lifts my spirits any. Obviously, it probably won't fix everything that's bumming me out, but maybe it will at least give me enough energy to not feel constantly defeated. I was happy she suggested that.

It was a really great surprise- it was so nice to see Adrienne that it totally cheered me up for the rest of the day. Sandy, my coworker, said that it was weird to see me looking happy.

Also at work, Stacie found a fat envelope in the parking lot that appeared to have a letter in it that was about 18 pages long. It was sealed with gold wax, and a woman's handwriting on the outside of the envelope read, "We still have to buy ourselves ground- flaws, dysfunctions, etc. Without me and my problems or you and your dys. we would both realize that our pain is caused by us- not the other. It's our own imperfections."

I told Stacie to open it up so we could read the actual letter, since there was no return address or name on the envelope or anything, and I love getting little glimpses of other people's personal lives because they fascinate me. However, she said that she just wants to keep it sealed for awhile. "It's my treasure- it's more special this way," she said. I explained to her that it's not the damn FedEx package from Cast Away, and come on, open it up because I want to see. So she said she'll open it on Wednesday and make a copy of it for me, but she wants to keep it intact till then for some reason. So if it's at all interesting, I'll transcribe it here. Stay tuned.

If anyone in metro Detroit is interested in fostering or adopting a parrot, you should check out www.knapp-time.com. That's the place I mentioned about a week ago, where Jen works. They're really sweet birds- most of them were abused or neglected in some way, but they've been rehabilitated and socialized so they're awesome companions- and parrots are about the most fun pets you can have to begin with. It's like having a best friend, but one who never screws you over! If there were such a thing as karma, helping out a bird would get you the most points, I'm convinced. (Assuming karma operated on a points system like a pinball game- and really, how else could it operate?) 

I'm sorry for plugging so many organizations this past week (Knapptime, Gardenburger, Save a Duck), but they all do a lot of good for the world. Granted, any time someone does a bit of good and makes a dent in the big, ever-growing ball of evil that consumes humanity, the evil just instantly fills that gap- kind of like if you try to dig a hole in the ocean by taking a shovelful of water- but at least someone's fighting the fight, futile though it may be.

Okay, now about those dietary adjustments...

CURRENT MUSIC: Yanqui U.X.O. by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
6:08 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, September 7, 2003:

Let's say you live in a frathouse with four other guys. One of them, Dave, is not exactly the brains of the operation. He's a big, dumb stoner with a rich daddy, and attitudes toward him from the other housemates range from grudging tolerance to outright hatred. But for some reason involving leases or whatever (I never lived in a frathouse, so I don't know how these things work, and therefore, I'm unsure why I even started this metaphor in such a way), you guys can't kick him out.

One day, Dave is really high and remarks how cool it would be if you guys could somehow rejigger the ice maker in your freezer to pump beer in from a keg next to the refrigerator, so you'd always have cold beer ice cubes. You figure it's just another of his stupid, stoned ramblings, like that time he wanted to get racing stripes tattooed all over his torso because he thought it would make him run faster, so you once again tell him he's an idiot and forget about it.

Only Dave doesn't let it go. Even when he's clear-headed, he's still going on and on about his beer ice maker- how he thinks it's actually feasible, how all you'd all need to do is go to Loew's and get a few tools and maybe some home repair books, how you'd all be worshipped as gods on campus because your freezer has this space-age feature, etc. This goes on for weeks, and he never shuts up about it. Dave is clearly very psyched.

So one day, rather than just saying, "That's stupid" for the millionth time, you actually explain to him all the reasons it's a dumb idea in the hopes of getting him to drop it: "Dave, (A) it's dangerous and may in fact be illegal to screw with our fridge like that unless you have some sort of refrigeration repair training. Which none of us does. (B) I'm sure it would be a violation of our lease to do this. (C) We use water-based ice cubes for a great many things that beer ice could not accomplish. First and foremost, cooling off certain drinks- like Mountain Dew- that would taste godawful if you had chunks of beer melting in them. (D) It would be much easier and cheaper to just pour beer into ice cube trays and put them on your shelf in the freezer, if you're really that stoked about this dumb-ass idea. (E) If you set the beer in a keg next to the fridge, where it would eventually get all warm, and then froze it into ice cubes, it'd get all skunky and nasty anyway. (F) No one else in the house thinks this is a remotely good idea. (G) It's really stupid!" And so forth.

Dave comes back with, "Dude, you have no vision," dismissing your well-reasoned arguments without a second thought. Every day, he continues asking you and all your housemates for your assistance and money for this endeavor. Which is repeatedly and firmly denied him. Literally hundreds of times by now, you've all told him not to go forward with his little brainchild.

Finally, one day, you all get home from class to discover Dave sitting on the floor of your kitchen, in the middle of a gigantic puddle of beer and water that has soaked the rug of your adjoining living room. He's scratching his head and studying a waterlogged copy of an out-of-date home repair manual that he checked out of the library that afternoon. An enormous hole has been gouged in the wall, and another has been inexplicably punched in the side of your freezer- and other sizeable dents in the unit suggest that Dave put it there with a pickaxe or something. The now-spoiled groceries of the entire household sit in the sink, creating a stench that would be horrible even without the overpowering odor of cheap beer. The power is out in the entire house because of something Dave did in the process of attempting to splice a hose from the keg into the water line that feeds the ice maker.

"Hey guys," he says cheerfully. "Glad you're home! I've been at this all day, and I'm starting to think that maybe this just isn't gonna work- but it would've been pretty sweet if it had, right? Listen, I'm gonna need your help cleaning all this shit up. Oh- and you each owe me $50 for beer and supplies."

Now then.

If you tell someone over and over again not to do something... that their idea is horribly misguided... that their plans are destructive and so lacking in logic that it's scary... that you're opposed to their plans to begin with and refuse to assist in their implementation... and that person goes ahead and just does whatever he wants to do anyway, in the face of enormous opposition and all common sense, because he's a stubborn jackass who always has to get his own way... and, naturally, the plan blows up in his face and wrecks things for everyone concerned... and finally, realizing he's in way over his head, he demands reimbursement and assistance from you to fix his mistakes or at least stanch the bleeding...

Why the fuck should ANYONE give this asshole ANYTHING at this point?!

CURRENT MUSIC: The Gay Parade by Of Montreal.
TIME: 10:10 PM.

Doot? | |

Last night, Aimee, Erica, Lorenzo, Tim (not my brother Tim; my friend Other Tim), and I went to Royal Oak because we are slaves to youth culture. We ate at the Monterey Cantina or something to that effect. Erica announced her intention to become a bartender, and to shorten her name to "Ric" when she does, because that's a good bartender name. (It is!) After about 20 minutes of arguing, Tim and Aimee got me to admit that I don't really loathe Steven Spielberg, though I still think he's a hack. Lorenzo, who cannot yet legally drink in the United States, began noisily demanding "a shot of milk" after Aimee got a shot of Jagermeister.

Outside, there were two guys on the corner- one with an acoustic guitar and the other with an acoustic bass- who would play any song you asked them to for a dollar. Aimee inexplicably had them play "Barbara Ann" despite repeated insistences from Tim and me that we request "It's Raining Men."

No life-changing events or huge emotional breakthroughs or anything like that. Just a nice, fun evening with dozens of great little moments like the ones above.

CURRENT MUSIC: No P. or D. by Ms. John Soda.
CURRENT MOOD: Ready for some fooootbaaaaallllllllll!
Dawn detergent's "Save a Duck" campaign. The ducks seemed so happy not to be covered in oil anymore!
11:51 AM.

Doot? | |

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