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Monday
Jun142010

Encyclopedia Show 1 - Insects

The glasses may be fake. But the corduroy is all too real. Please to enjoy the video presentation of The Japanese Giant Hornet.

And for the text-dependent:

The Giant Japanese Hornet.

Sometimes called The Giant ASIAN Hornet by those who tend to be less specific in their characterizations.

Sometimes called The Giant ORIENTAL Hornet by those who tend to be a little racist.

To understand the life cycle and habits of this bug means you will need to reconnoiter your mind for everything you think you know about insects –retrieve every snippet and factoid, everything you believe to be true about insects and bugs and all manner of harmless little crawly things one finds under a rock. For real – all that stuff you mistakenly believe you know about bugs, round up, take it out back and burn it, because The Giant Japanese Hornet defies every expectation, violates every convention, flouts every natural law you could name.

In the larval stage, The Giant Japanese Hornet is the size of a fingerling potato. Twenty minutes after hatching, it grows to the size of a canned ham. When they reach adulthood – like an hour later – they have eyes the size of manhole covers, their legs are as big around as fire hydrants, and their thorax is comparable in size to some third feature of the municipal landscape familiar to you but which I cannot now call to mind. A bus shelter, maybe? Doesn’t matter. Point is, these are atypically large creatures.

It is worth noting, after all that we refer here to The JAPANESE Giant Hornet. Japan, like many island ecosystems around the globe, is home to a number of uncommonly large species, including The Japanese Giant Salamander, The Japanese Giant Spider, Mothra, and of course the fearsome Rodan.

Now, you may be protesting: “And what of Godzilla? You have neglected to mention Godzilla!” Slow down, nerd.

This misapprehension pops up with baffling frequency, and I feel obligated in interrupt myself to emphasize: Godzilla isn’t real. Godzilla is the metaphorical embodiment of man’s technological hubris run rampant. To be frank, I have always been at a loss as to why the Japanese felt compelled to devise Godzilla at all when Mothra and Rodan roam the earth, literally pulverizing Japanese cities to actual dust, but there we are.

But back to The Giant Japanese Hornet.

To humans, the diet and means of predation The Giant Japanese Hornet is especially brutal. They fly great distances in search of food – up to sixty miles per day – and when an individual locates a meal, they will deposit a chemical marker upon it, retrieve other members of the colony, and attack in a swarm of overwhelming force. Given their brute strength and the toxicity of their venom, this is a murderously effective predator. They are equipped with a stinger that is not barbed, so they can sting repeatedly, like Ebert in his review of the recently released “Kick Ass” – I mean, meee-YOW.

Perhaps the saddest part of their ruthless hunt is their prey: The Japanese Giant Hornet feeds exclusively on a diet of baby ducklings. Little, tiny, helpless baby ducklings, that are just as cute and sweet and innocent as they can be. Testing has demonstrated that if the ducklings are extra fuzzy and peeping in that way they have that just about breaks your heart, well then The Japanese Giant Hornet is over twice as likely to eat them. In short, the cuter the duckling, the more vicious the attack. Sometimes? It’s just flat out murder.

If, for example, a baby duckling were sitting quietly on a steel table, nearby Hornets would attack it about 60% of the time. If that same duckling were to be found frolicking with his brothers and sisters, tumbling out of a basket onto the grass in a heedless and joyful manner, peeping in that way they have that just about breaks your heart, well then they are as good as dead. Any Japanese Giant Hornet catching sight of this adorable tableau will instantly be seized by an overpowering bloodlust and will wipe out the whole basket of ducklings with a jaw-dropping swiftness that makes the fire-bombing of Dunkirk look like a eating Skittles on porch swing.

And here’s the kicker: they LOOK RIGHT AT YOU, these Hornets, as they are devouring adorable, flightless ducklings. Entomologists in both field conditions and in laboratory settings report that the Hornet will, when engaging in this sickening display of avian dismemberment and evisceration, meet the gaze of observers with their dead, soulless eyes in what researchers from the University of Osaka report is “an insolent manner” and that “specimens seemed to be defying research personnel to stop them”.

This, we believe, is the first recorded instance of a non-human subject in the natural world, pulling what the lead biologist on the project called “a dick move”. He continues: “and I mean seriously, not just any dick move but a WILLFUL and MEAN-SPIRITED dick move for NO GOOD REASON. They didn’t even EAT all the ducklings. They just killed them. And I could swear they were smirking at us when they did it.” Chilling stuff, indeed.

Current theory holds that the Hornets are not merely aware of nearby researchers, have come to recognize that researchers will not intervene, and that even if they were inclined to do so, they live in fear of the enzyme in the Hornet’s saliva that can dissolve human flesh, causing excruciating and unsightly lesions.

They are also known to be nature’s most effective identity thefts. I cannot stress this enough: IF YOU RECEIVE AN EMAIL FROM A JAPANESE GIANT HORNET, DO NOT OPEN IT.

Dr. Simon Pendragon of the University of Kansas at Lawrence attempted during field work on Yagishiri Island to intervene verbally in a swarm of Hornets engaged in a gruesome duckling massacre. Later that day, the colony had cleaned out his checking account. Attempts to implicate the Hornets have thus far proven impossible, but the species is widely known to be sophisticated hackers.

And they make this like sucking noise when they chew? Makes you berserk in like two minutes. And you do NOT want one for a roommate – they leave wet towels on the floor and they’ll use up all your coffee and not replace it, and plus? They will try to kill you in your sleep. If they’re not committing insurance fraud, they’re peeing in your sock drawer.

While it may constitute a violation of my scientific pledge to strive for objectivity, I feel compelled to say it: Japanese Giant Hornets are totally, totally uncool.

Monday
Jun142010

Essay Fiesta 1

This is a nifty show for a good cause, Essay Fiesta (a free show!) donates proceeds from its monthly raffle to the Howard Brown Health Center. Here's how I debuted there:

 

My Persistent Difficulty in Attracting Corporate Sponsorship.

In the non-profit world, many organizations rely in part upon donations from business. In this mutually beneficial arrangement, the non-profit receives a welcome infusion of cash, and the corporation receives the PR and tax benefits of its association with the cause the non-profit seeks to address.

An example might be teaching kids pottery, say. When a company gives a comparatively tiny amount of money to an after-school program that teaches kids pottery, that company can then slather its slick website with endearing photos of bedimpled moppets speckled with clay. Which might draw your mind away from the slave labor conditions for child workers in the company’s assembly plant in the Philippines.

Because who among us will think of the malnourished 8-year-old outside Manila – who, to be fair, might have done something to deserve that most recent caning – when the company’s home page features a photo of an 8-year-old girl with arresting green eyes and the tousle of Christopher Robin hair and she’s wearing a smock and she’s regarding the camera in a dreamy way and she’s got a dab of clay on her upturned little nose?

When faced with the teeth-gritting adorableness of this girl in her smock, you can’t help forgetting all about that suffering bunch of kids at the assembly plant outside Manila, who are, it must be admitted, though through no fault of their own, brown-skinned. And wicked, wicked far away. And super poor.

As an artist of great importance, the time has come for me to be paid for the vision and audacity of what I do. I have made numerous inquiries with a variety of potential sources of corporate funding, and I confess I have met with limited success. “Limited success” should here be taken to mean either stony silence or needlessly aggressive refusal.

To improve my future prospects, I have brought with the draft of a letter, upon which I would be grateful for you feedback. It is a plea to the Newman’s Own company, which you will recall was founded by the late film star and philanthropist Paul Newman. All I’m after is a modest donation to support the important, important artistic work that heroically undertake which, let’s face it, makes the world a better place for all of us.

The first is to the Newman’s Own, which SAYS right on its website: “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good.” It’s RIGHT THERE, man. It reads:

Dear Nell Newman:

Really sorry about the loss of your dad. Paul Newman was a fantastic actor and an amazing humanitarian – and I am in no way just saying this because I want something from you. I really, really mean it. Truly.

I am writing with a proposal I hope you will find compelling. I am seeking your philanthropic support for my dazzling artistry. I am a writer-performer who, unlike your dad, does not memorize my stuff, but who is nonetheless magnetic and riveting. I mean, if ONE more person compares me favorably to Spaulding Gray, I will positively SCREAM, you know what I mean? I am including links to a number of local blogs that have mentioned my work so you will be able to tell that I am a legitimate artist, because I think we can agree that one doesn’t make it into the blogosphere upwards of EIGHT TIMES without really having something to offer.

I know that your time is valuable, so I will get straight to the point. I am writing to request that your outstanding Champion Chip Cookies become the exclusive sponsor of the world premiere of a new work. I’m thinking here in particular of the Orange Chocolate Champion Chip Cookies, as which anyone can tell you, are uncommonly delicious.

What I propose is, in short, an unprecedented opportunity for your company to enjoy the many benefits of making an incredibly targeted and direct connection with my rabidly devoted fan base as I incorporate your delectable cookies into an original piece of time-based artwork to be devised and performed by myself.

I will not claim to have not worked out every particular of this exciting and visionary project, but the overall shape of the piece will go something like this:

I feel very strongly that this performance will underscore the mind-bending deliciousness of your cookies. I mean, after all, what more compelling demonstration could there be? With this world premiere, in addition to the many complex and nuanced theses it puts forth about the recent demise of capitalism and the futility of consumerism, your company benefits from its central message, which is that I am so devoted to these cookies that I am willing to eat them twice before a live audience.

I ask you, Ms. Newman: what more persuasive spokesman can there be than the one whose smile is flecked with own feces? And furthermore, I feel compelled to emphasize: feces that is unadulterated by any other food than the incomparably delicious Newman’s Own Champion Chip Cookies that are the exclusive sponsor of this prestigious world premiere? I think you’ll agree that only the most callous among could not be moved by the spectacle of such devotion. But as stirring as this performance promises to be, my proposal does not end here.

I know, Ms. Newman, that your dad had a real thing for sick kids – he started like a camp or something for them, didn’t he? I recognize, therefore, that this project might in the strictest sense fall outside the bounds of the Newman’s Own “mission” or whatever you’re calling it. But I will offer you this pledge: if you wish it, and if it will help to cement our partnership, then I totally have no problem at all feigning any sickness of your choosing. Whattayou want? You want a chemo look? I will totally pluck every hair out of my face and body right now. May I show you something in a nice Parkinson’s? I promise you, I can make Rush Limbaugh’s “making fun of Michael J. Fox” routine look positively inert. You name it, Ms. Newman: on your say-so, I will be as sick-looking as can be. Here’s how it breaks down: for a thousand bucks, I will look drawn and pasty. For two grand, I will pitch a seizure that would fool any expert. For five thousand, I will remove all my hair, as indicated above, PLUS I will throw in your choice of coughing up blood or – wait for it – the loss of a tooth.

Now at this point, Ms. Newman, you may be saying to yourself: “This is insane. This guy’s creeping me out.” I am hearing, Ms. Newman. I want you to know that I am listening. You may feel the consumption of my own defecation and removal of a tooth is excessive. You may question the wisdom of this approach, and to see limitations in its utility in advancing your company’s messaging goals. While I respectfully disagree with this assessment, I can understand where you might regard this approach as a slightly bolder vision than you are currently considering.

I would submit to you, Madame, that it is fine to act all high and mighty when your daddy is a dead movie star, but down here, where real life happens – down here in the STREETS, Ms. Newman, we can ill afford the luxury of your squeamishness. The majority of us, Ms. Newman, do not oversee a multi-million dollar company as you have the good fortune to – good fortune, Ms. Newman, which I hasten to emphasize, is not based on merit, but which was deposited into your ungrateful lap by your father. While it may jar you learn it, Ms. Newman, the plain fact is that for the overwhelming majority of hardworking Americans like myself, there is no option but to poop in a bowl and eat it for money. Welcome to your wake-up call.

On an unrelated note, that Oscar your dad won for the “Color of Money” was a joke and everyone knows it.

You know what? I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. May we start over? You know what it is? I cannot STAND my life. I know this is not your fault, Ms. Newman, and I have no right to take out on you.

It’s just that I have this office job that I hate like syphilis. Every day that I don’t burn that place to the ground is a mystery of such eye-popping wonder, I can’t even tell you. Where did my life go, Ms. Newman? I used to be an attractive guy. My wife couldn’t keep her hands off me back in the day. And now LOOK at me. I’m a sad, fat old man. I don’t BLAME her for stiff-arming me in the sack. I wouldn’t want this paunchy old wreck pawing at me, either. The other day, I told my nine-year-old to get his PJs on, and he didn’t even SAY anything – he just threw an elbow to my groin and walked out of the room. And have SEEN my eyebrows? I’ve got these freaking Gandalf wizard-hairs that are threatening overtake my forehead. And if you feel like having a good cry, then try catching a glimpse of THIS body in the mirror as you step out of the shower. And you open the paper every day and you just feel the will to live draining away. And so finally some friend of yours asks you to do some dirt-baggity little show that nobody comes to and you come up with some half-baked idea about pooping in a bowl and eating it and you KNOW that this is a perfectly HORRIBLE idea, but it is the very best you can come up with because all the originality has been completely leached out of you by the pummeling vortex of impotent rage and thwarted hopes that your life has become. And so instead of weeping in the shower all Monday night, you do SOMETHING.

So in that spirit, Ms. Newman, the spirit of not executing my co-workers and refraining from pulling a full-on all-male version of “Thelma and Louise” except that I have no real friends to speak of, so it would be more precisely just a “Thelma”, I respectfully request a donation in the amount of $10,000. And if you do NOT wish me to create a world premiere performance of pooping out your cookies and eating them, I would therefore request a donation of $20,000.

Best regards,

Ian Belknap

Monday
Jun142010

Paper Machete 3

Here's what the Dean of Mean had to say on the subject of transparency:

Transparency. Transparency. Everybody wants more transparency.

“Transparency” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the quality or condition of transparentness, perviousness to light, diaphaneity; pellucidity.”

In current parlance, however, it has come to mean “obscuring more selectively” or “adopting a virtuous posture while lying” or “screeching a hollow buzzword in formless accusation when anybody disagrees with me”.

Take for example the temptingly named Freedom of Information Act, which might well rename itself the Act Entitling Individual Citizens the Dubious Privilege of Wrangling With Sinister Bureaucrats Who Withhold Information With Undisguised Malice. A shitty acronym, maybe, but there it is.

According to the LA Times, the Obama administration, after campaign promises to create the most “open and transparent administration ever” has seen a 50% INCREASE over Bush in denied Freedom of Information requests during its first year. Mr. President, as a voter, I would ask you: “What the shit-fuck? What the shit-fuck-damn-hell, man?”

Words like “freedom”, and “information” once – and I promise I’m not making this up – had meaning. Meaning about which I as speaker and you as listener could, in substance, agree.

For example, I might say to you: “Man, is that Justin Beiber a vacant-eyed little succubus, or what? Where’s the ACCOUNTABILITY for his parents?” And you and I would AGREE that the appropriate level of ACCOUNTABILITY for Justin Beiber and his parents would be to lash them to cinder blocks and drown them in sewage.

But those days are behind us. Words have come to be hollow signifiers – empty bins into which we can pour whatever meaning suits us. Words have deteriorated to such a point where George Orwell is, like, going around and around really fast in that dead guy hole place underground. With the stone.

And you’re probably like “Zip it, Grandpa. Words don’t even, like… they aren’t even… (PAUSE) Shut up, Old Man.”

I hear you. You make the beginning of an excellent point. Words, as you start to suggest, are no longer our primary means of constructing and conveying meaning. Once we would gather around fires and tell stories, or lean into the lantern light and read words that had been chosen with care and significance and intention.

Now, though, we use words mostly as a means of tagging hilarious videos on YouTube. Like that one, where the bride and groom are dancing and he does that spin move and TOTALLY PUNCHES HER RIGHT IN THE FACE. Oh my God. Classic.

Because, hey, I’m a regular guy. I’m like you. I just want to RELAX, watch some hilarious nut-punch videos and eat me a KFC Double Down while releasing a loose coil of turd into my diaper.

But so Transparency. We live in a world where a guy named Vikram Pandit who is the CEO of fucking Citigroup – which has been pounding the ass of the global marketplace with a razor wire dildo – can give a speech at Columbia University calling for greater accountability and transparency in the banking sector.

Vikram Pandit, who in 2009 “earned” $128 MILLION, and used to run Morgan Motherfucking Stanley, gets up IN PUBLIC and says to an IVY LEAGUE AUDIENCE with A STRAIGHT FACE that Citigroup is undergoing a "process of soul searching."

If statements were explosives, this would be a bunker buster that burrows into the earth, finds the truth where it hides in limestone caves, and pummels it to dust.

When you utter with apparent sincerity a phrase like “Citigroup is doing a lot a soul-searching”, your head should go off like a wet firecracker. When you use “Citigroup” and “soul-searching” in the same PARAGRAPH, the earth should open up a rectum of fire beneath your feet and burn you to a sulphurous little nugget, and then we as a society should bronze that nugget and put it on a pedestal out front of the newly erected Temple of Thieves Who Lined Their Pockets With The Tear-Stained Dreams of Your Grandchildren.

But for sheer testicular density, Vikram Pandit’s balls look like they are made of fucking CORK compared to the epic pair of nads swinging between Don Blankenship’s legs. Blankenship is the head of Massey fucking Energy, the company that owns the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia that about a month ago erupted in a 2-mile fireball that killed 29 guys.

Blankenship testified before a Congressional committee this week – Congressional testimony being maybe the most ritualized enactment of Transparency we have in this country – and instead of saying something like: “Thank you guys so seriously much for not charging me with manslaughter,” he not only DEFENDS his company’s abysmal safety record, he goes on to ACCUSE the Mine Safety Agency of CAUSING the buildup of methane and coal dust that caused the explosion. So not ONLY does Blankenship have Satan’s cock in his mouth, but he must really know what he’s doing, because he is just COATED in Satanic magma spooge.

His blaming regulators is like a Catholic priest taking the pulpit and saying: “It’s not my FAULT I keep porking your sons. If there was a better SYSTEM for monitoring me at the choirboy buffet you have insisted on inviting me to, I could just about GUARANTEE you a 30% reduction in the number of your sons that I rape in the coming year.”

Or, hey, local politics. Hizzoner Mayor Daley has launched an effort to post on the City of Chicago website the names of journalists who file Freedom of Information requests with the City. Which seems aimed at putting journalists on a par with registered sex offenders. For this HEROIC dedication to Transparency, I propose giving Mayor Daley a plaque that reads: “In recognition of Richard M. Daley, for his tireless service to Obstruction, without which the shit-speckled sausage of governance could not be made, we hereby pledge our continued inexplicable allegiance.”

Or the headline: “Facebook Backlash Sparks Transparency Tools”. Facebook, which was BORN for the sole purpose of telling each other frivolous horseshit about ourselves, has now come under fire for not telling us who they’re telling our frivolous horseshit to. Which, apparently, is very upsetting. Since the frivolous horseshit has tremendous and lasting value.

Or, finally, the world of sports. Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods giving that press conference. About all the skeevy ladies. And getting beaten with a nine-iron by his wife. And the car crash.

And all the skeevy, skeevy ladies. I think its fair to say that if we represented these ladies as a pie chart, the largest wedge would be Chlamydia. As an example of Transparency, Tiger’s willingness to step to the podium and wallow for the cameras in the genital carnival that his life has become, pretty much sets the gold standard for Transparency. The gold, pube-encrusted standard.

In these waning days of the republic, we would all do well to pause for a the super hilarious videos we would rather be watching, and reflect upon the example of Transparency Tiger provides. We should heed Tiger’s wise counsel by following in his footsteps: we should each of us dip our penises into the most disease-ridden puddle of low self-esteem we can find, we should then get caught, and finally we should make an empty-eyed show of contrition.

Except that we don’t have anything like Tiger’s money, so when we do this, it’ll be more like a segment on Maury or an episode of Cheaters.

For I believe THAT is how Thomas Jefferson would have wanted it. THAT’S what our Founders wished for each of us: a televised ambush shouting match that pits us against one another for the fleeting affections of some fat skank.

Only by following Tiger’s sterling example can we fulfill our nation’s truest destiny: which, if we extrapolate from current trends, is that we should each be locked in a bare-knuckled fight to the death over a rack of discarded ribs retrieved from a greasy puddle in the alley behind an Outback Steakhouse while our fellow citizens bet on the outcome, like a cockfight.

Monday
Jun142010

Paper Machete 2

After my debut outing, I was named Dean of Mean for the show, which is an irregular feature where I write piece tearing a new asshole for some arena of human experience. This was my Open Letter accepting the post:

When I consented to begin busking for this ragged little operation, I did so as a hired gun. I’d serve in the brief and disposable capacity of an adjunct professor – dropping for you the sciences, then retreating to my lair. But I fared well, it would seem. I presented some remarks on the art and science of parenting in present day America, which found here a receptive audience. For me to characterize my own awesomeness would be as unseemly as it would be immodest, so I shall rely upon the words of our host and curator Mr. Piatt, who stated flatly of my inaugural foray into matters Machete: “You killed. You killed like OJ Simpson.”

This comment reveals Christopher to have both a discerning eye and more than a little racism.

A permanent post was created for me on the spot. I have been named by the Unholy Order of the Vengeful and Misshapen to the newly minted position of the Dean of Mean. As my first official act, I would like to read the following Open Letter to the Citizens of Machete Nation

My reasons for crafting an Open Letter are many, but chief among these is that an Open Letter is for all persons who would hear it – it is intended for the widest conceivable swath of the misbegotten miasma of ignorance, appetite, and vanity that is humankind.

It is aimed as much at the Wrigleyville bro-hemes I wish to pin to the front door of Hi-Tops with a harpoon gun, as it is at the Ukie Village skinny jean hipsters whom I’d be pleased drive like a spike into the ground by striking them with an iron skillet. It embraces the dickface business guy whom I SUSPECT is robbing us all blind, but cannot know since I do not fully understand what it is that he claims to DO, and the blue collar tavern rat who looks me up and down, and concludes that while I MAY not be a homo, I’m definitely still suspicious. It is intended for women of every description, be they chicks, be they ladies, be they fur-bearing wymen with a “y”.

But my primary reason is that in an Open Letter I am relieved of the burden of specificity. I am granted license – by me – to make sweeping pronouncements and unsubstantiated claims. I am afforded the chance – by me – to generalize in a manner that is not heedful, that is not helpful, and this is quite likely offensive. I possess god-like powers – conferred by by me – to indulge in rhetoric of the most capricious and reprehensible sort. In short, I have found my place in this life.

So, then, to The Letter.

Dear Society:

As the newly appointed Dean of Mean – a tenured position from which I cannot be removed – I have your marching orders, which I have helpfully divided into arenas of influence. Doing so has cost me no small effort, so PAY ATTENTION.

Here is your Call to Action:

Dear Celebrities: from this moment forward, you are permitted to be boring OR stupid, NOT both. Any among you caught being stupid and boring simultaneously will either be shackled to a starving tiger or enrolled against your will in advanced mathematics at MIT.

Dear Sports: stop building date rapists. We have quite enough date rapists to satisfy our current needs. Should you insist on continuing to build date rapists, then we will be compelled to thin the Date Rapist herd, since too cull this population, which has no natural predators, is the only humane thing to do. On your way out, the management of Ricochet’s will be passing out crossbows for the purpose. And while crossbows are undeniably awesome, DO NOT ABUSE THIS PRIVILEGE – the crossbows are NOT TOYS. They are to be used to thinning the Date Rapist herds ONLY. As soon as you collect yours, head south on Lincoln – you should hit Fullerton by about dusk, when they have begun to emerge from their man-caves.

Dear Politics: I have nothing to say to you. I am not above shooting fish in a barrel, but to take aim at you is like firing at guppies in a drinking glass with a fucking Howitzer. Your hypocrisy is so oppressively predictable we could make a drinking game out it – “Every time a Republican porks a dude, take a shot.” And we’re all hammered by noon.

Dear media: I do not concur with those who decry the decades-long skull-fucking you have been dealing us. I mean, sure, we SAY “Quit fucking me in the brain,” but how much do we actually MEAN it? I mean, look at how we’re dressed. And does it seem PRUDENT that we’d be seeking out media to consume in that part of town at that time of night? Of course not. We totally have it coming, man. And secretly? I bet we’re just freaky enough to be into it a little bit. Just like our stepfather told us when he’d come into our rooms in the night when mom picked up extra shifts at the IHOP: It’s our fault. That’s what he would tell us when we were crying as mom pulled into the driveway. It’s all our fault, Media. So you keep right on skull-fucking.

Dear American Schools: let’s just be done with the charade, shall we? Nobody’s LEARNING anything in these places – as a parent, I can attest that American kids are too stupid to learn anything, so these crumbling buildings function mainly as holding pens before we shuttle “students” to prison or the military. Let’s do it this way: instead of grades where “students” and “teachers” enact the sham of acquiring mastery of topics that do not matter, we divide the kids by weight class. Each weight class gets locked in the cafeteria, administrators toss in a single wad of gristly meat, and the kids fight for it – you wanna eat, you gotta fight. I know. A lot of you are probably concerned about the costs of this innovative new program. Three words. Three hyphenated words: pay-per-view. Are you telling me you wouldn’t pay 4 bucks to see kids whaling on each other with lunch trays and chairs? As an American patriot, I know that you would – you’d be crazy not to, it’ll be like Van Damme’s Bloodsport but it will be a total riot, since it’s bunch of little fat kids.

Dear The Arts: don’t change a thing. You’re doing everything right. The irrelevance, the self-regard, the feelings of persecution, the inflated sense of importance, the unwillingness to adapt. The wildfires of change that are overtaking you are SURE to die down on their own. Even though the wind is picking up. And both your ankles are broken. And you are wearing a gasoline jacket.

That is my list for now. Many, many more recommendations to come. I would like to thank the good people of The Paper Machete for their abundant good taste.

I can state with confidence that in the face of the unrelenting Dipshit-ification of our country, we shall have much to respond to, and I as your Dean of Mean will be there – smacking my head and rolling my eyes at the jaw-dropping and mind-bending waste and idiocy and the often baffling choices made by the judges on Dancing With the Stars.

I give you this pledge: as long as our once great nation remains a sinkhole of retarded and remedial horseshit, I will be here to give incisive yet ineffectual commentary – I will walk beside you, muttering hate speech and making fun of your shoes.  I will stick it to The Man – from over here on the sidelines, where I can do no good. In order to make a more perfect Union.

Monday
Jun142010

Paper Machete 1

Here's how I popped my Machete cherry, the assignment being Kiddie Kulture:

Are there any parents here with us today? No? None? Yeah, not surprising. You know why? They’re parenting. They got no time for shit like this. They are the rock pile, man. When Christopher gave me this assignment – an examination of Kiddie Kulture – I sat down to toss off a couple pages of unbelievably hilarious observations about Sponge Bob and Harry Potter and Miley Cyrus. It quickly emerged, however, that this is and must be a book-length project. What follows is an introductory chapter to a book with the working title: Not Only Can Johnny Not Read, But He’s Kind of a Douche.

If human life is a business, parenting is its unpaid internship. It is furthermore an unpaid internship for which you are grossly under-qualified and for which you will receive no training. AND, to compound the already considerable difficulties of this unpaid internship, your colleagues keep puking in the break room, or shitting in the elevator. Or stealing your youth. So you, as the lowly unpaid intern are constantly MacGuyver-ing these completely 0.5-assed non-solutions to problems that you have never encountered before created by people that are way smaller than you but whom you permit to push you around all the time and interrupt you constantly.

There are two persistently baffling aspects of this unpaid internship. The first is that you unwittingly sign a blood oath that the unpaid internship lasts forever and ever without ceasing and that the mortal stakes of the unpaid internship are always escalating, so if you ease up for so much as a moment, your colleagues will turn into sociopathic criminals who will blame everything on you in later interviews with the media. The other baffling aspect of the unpaid internship is that people – often people unknown to you, and without any stake whatsoever in the unpaid internship – are perfectly willing to list for you all the ways that you are fucking up. Almost invariably, these helpful, helpful people have never once had the unpaid internship. Ever. In their lives. But they will happily rattle off the eleven ways you’ve just brought ruin to the whole enterprise, and then they will head off to the gym. Or go to brunch. Or they will spend an idle hour in a bookstore, alone with their thoughts. All of which are activities that you as the Unpaid Intern may not ever engage in for any reason.

My wife and I have two children – boy and a girl. We send them to a Chicago public school that is not failing as rapidly as most. We are raising them in a ranch house we cannot afford. I drive them around in a domestic car that has all the sex appeal of can of Crisco. This is my life. A life that has arisen by what first seemed a series of choices, but which has somehow gathered a momentum of its own and which compels me to do things that the previous version of myself – the version that retained the prospect of continued slenderness and the dim hope of looking cool, the version, in short, that bears no resemblance to the neutered husk you see before you today – I have been compelled to do things that that former version of myself would have found gutless, contemptible, and flat-out sad. All in the name of this decades-long unpaid internship where I will make no connections, spend tens of thousands of dollars, and where there are no prospects for advancement.

Even if one sets aside my misspent days shuttling between the appalling experiment in entropy and decay we call a house and the job where I can FEEL the imagination and impulse to be extraordinary getting wrung out of me in the repetitive and incremental anguish known as the workday, I see things as a parent that you all should drop to your knees and thank your Maker you’ve never had to see. I refer of course to Kiddie Kulture. “Kulture” with a “K”. And you better believe that each letter is slanty like the sign above the Fun House door.

Kiddie Kulture is a tower of insulting flotsam that is as ill-conceived as it is shoddily constructed. It is an epic temple that though already cavernous, they keep building onto it. The citizens who populate this temple are the formless and translucent offspring that result when the works of Joseph Campbell are gang raped by cross-platform synergies and quarterly shareholder reports. The temple of Kiddie Kulture is the ongoing bastardization of a plagiarized design cobbled together from hearsay and conjecture about the phrenology of Walt Disney’s cryogenically preserved head. And it’s being built by retarded monkeys who hate you.

For the childless, or barren, among you here is my Pledge to you Regarding Style, Tone, and Content: I will try to avoid being smug and preachy fuckface. In this book, you will not find any of the following:

There will be no food court epiphanies.

There will be no revelations gained on the sidelines of a soccer field or following a teacher conference.

There will be no insights shared over mugs of post-snowball fight cocoa.

There shall be no wry commiseration outside the ball pit at Chuck E.Cheese.

There will be no Erma Bombeck-style lamentation about my super-hectic quest to get that casserole in the oven for Pete’s sake.

There will be none of that loathsome form of chick-lit journalism that’s brimming with bemused lists of ways of achieving that super-elusive work-life balance like “Ten Exercises You Can Do In the Conference Room All Through the Staff Meeting” or “Eight Strategies for the Best Family Game Night Ever That Somehow Fails to Dissolve Into Tears and Acrimony”. And then you flip to the suspiciously prominent color photo of the author in the glossy, glossy pages of Real Simple or whatever and you find a 94-pound, doe-eyed little thing whom you can tell at a glance has never once for so much as a moment been overwhelmed in her young life by ANYTHING, who has never known want or unease or ill will.

And she is inclining her head at the camera and gazing placidly from behind naughty librarian glasses and showing her solidarity for your plight by having a single honeyed strand of her hair falling over her well-rested face. And NOW you are saddled with these unwelcome and frankly time-consuming fantasies about this woman unknown to you moments before – fantasies where you take her roughly in her spotless and sun-drenched mudroom. And you can ill afford the time devoted to these fantasies because the only reason you picked up this issue of goddamn Real Simple in the first place was to try and find 15-minute weekday dinner solutions involving chicken cutlets, and now you are way behind. Again.

Furthermore, there will be no droll series of non-observations about lawn care and the many similarities between my children and my dogs that will culminate in the unexpected conclusion – wait for it – that I prefer the company of my DOGS to that of my OWN CHILDREN. This is, after all Dave Barry territory, which is apparently called being a “humorist”, which means that you adopt the STRUCTURE and CONVENTIONS of writing intended to amuse, while relieving yourself of the burden of actually being funny. There is apparently an entire category that pursues these strange goals called “humor writing”.  Rest easy – I’m not here to amuse, I’m here to inform.

And you better believe there will be none of the recently emerged “Alternadad” model of parenting porn that retains the tropes of hipster culture, trying in vain to wedge the pallid and cottage cheesy ass of parenting into the low-riding and snug-fitting jeans of the zeitgeist. I will not subject you to smirky anecdotes of precocious things young Atticus told the guy at the flea market. I will not relate how poor Brooklyn ran afoul of the catty popular girls at dance class.

I will not describe in rapturous detail the kid’s outfit – the fucking Pumas and the fucking Ben Sherman pants and shit. To do so would after all only remind you that name-checking brands is the lazy man’s way of conveying character. It would also make you pretty goddamn certain that there is family money bankrolling my scenester parenting blog. For as you try in vain to stave off the realization that this fucking four-year-old in this faux-hawk and skate shoes and his $58 hand-screened Pixies t-shirt is through now fault of his own being turned into an entitled little asshole. And, you grow rightfully pissed that he is far cooler than you the reader can hope to be, even though you SAW the fucking Pixies in Springfield, Massachusetts in like ‘91 – I mean you just want to shake this smug little shitbird name of Oscar or Angus or whatever, going “You’re like four and a half, man – you like you go to film school? How is it fucking FAIR that you get to dress like you go to a film school that I as a grown man could not afford to attend?”

So, in short – I’ll be refraining, I hope, from the many, many parenting porn pitfalls I have identified – a few of which I have outlined above.

There are many reasons I am loathe to take you down any of these narrow paths, but the main reason is that IT IS NOT INTERESTING TO EITHER ONE OF US.

To those not engaged in it, child-rearing is BORING. I am, believe me, crystal clear on just how boring I have become. I have grown so boring that I can no longer be detected by the unaided human eye. I am a see-through man-shaped tombstone of boringness. So for me to attempt to encase this my chronic and deep-running boringness in some kind of hard candy shell of self-righteous horse shit that seeks to validate the many poor choices that have culminated in my becoming this domesticated and de-fanged heap of eunuch-flesh – to do so would be an insult to both of us.

No.

It is important to say this about Kiddie Kulture: a lot of it is good and cool and fun. There is a wealth of worthy books and TV and cinema for kids in this world – from Roald Dahl to Phineas and Ferb to the films of Miyazki, there are stories and characters told with gusto and subversion and ingenuity, and most importantly, with affection and respect for children.

And then there is the rest of it, or what statisticians might characterize as “the overwhelming majority that is so dominant and pervasive it makes you want to weep bitter, bitter tears”.

I am not going to make you squirm through a litany of the many offenders. I will, however, provide an overview of the principles that guide the field. Were this overview to be represented visually, it might take the form of a helix – broad at the top, quite narrow at the bottom – that is spiraling inexorably downward. We might entitle this helix The Pummeling Vortex of Forces as Hateful as it is Relentless, the Sole Aim of Which is to Create a Generation of Slack and Greedy Morons Who Will Happily Consume the Latest Nut-Punch from Adam Sandler or Its Equivalent.

Oh. Sorry. That’s a typo. That should read “ANOTHER Generation of Slack and Greedy Morons.”