Saturday, June 30, 2007

Number 100

This is my hundredth post, which is prime because this is the forum to talk about what a fucking dumbass I am for missing my friend Sam's wedding party. I can't get across just how awful I feel about this; Milwaukee is a great town, even greater in the summer time. I had a great time in March when I hung out with Sam and Jason after Marquette beat Pitt, and I re-met Sam's fiancee, who was in a Cold War History class I took four or five years ago. Jason's moving out of Milwaukee soon, which means I should take every opportunity to see him there, and how often do you get to celebrate a friend's Marriage? I was even looking forward to seeing the people with compromised values and serious character flaws, who I'd previously told myself I'd never talk to again.

Here's a rundown of my memories of Sam. Hope you're readin' this, buddy:

The summer before our senior year is when I really started to hang out with Sam. He lived in 939, right next door to me. I remember being depressed, sitting in my house, hearing really loud, awful country music coming out of a boombox next door, and seeing Sam, lanky, plastered, reclining in a lawn chair with a gigantic can of beer (coulda been Ice House) with sundry people milling about. Remarked to myself that this guy looks like a jackass.

Song: No Depression by Uncle Tupelo

939 was an interesting place. It housed twelve or thirteen guys, countless kegs, and lord knows how many date rapes. It did not have a sterling reputation, but it was no frat house in that regard. Rather, each house member had his own idiosyncrasies, sociopathic tendencies, drinking problem, sense of humor, inner demons, and charming qualities. They had parties often, but those lost their luster as my own fear of women took root. Even when we didn't have a party there, we started off drinking there. Sometimes we never left. Towards the end of our senior year, and I'm getting ahead of myself, we would set chairs out on the balcony, which was right out of Sam's spacious, creepy room, smoke cigarettes and heckle people walking along the sidewalk. Those are the college experiences more talented people make into movie scenes.

Song: Tentative Decisions by the Talking Heads

Sam and I are very similar even in the ways that we are polar opposites. Jason was kind of the median point between us. Our politics couldn't be farther apart, and we would get into really dumb arguments. Usually, they ended with my making fun of Jesus. Usually, too, he was just trying to irritate me, which is a dangerous trap to fall into when you take yourself very seriously and think you know more than everyone else. It teaches you, if you're smart, to have a sense of humor even in those things you value most. Enough earnestness: I pulled similar irritating ploys myself (telling a pissed-off, certain morbidly upright and plasticine member of our graduating class - hint for the MU people reading: his initials are MW - that his family owed blacks reparations for slavery) but couldn't be laid back enough to take my own medicine. Sam deserves much credit, even in his horribly mistaken political views, for my slowly getting my head out of my ass (Launch date: 2012). Also, we fell for girls too easily. He was a sunny optimistic, I was a fatalist. Guess who was more fun to talk to at these times?

Song: Love Comes In Spurts by Richard Hell and the Voidoids

My cousin Casey was a Freshman when we were seniors. He was a reticent, shy kid, so we had him come out with us one night. Sam was geared towards getting rid of a couch that some douche bag undergrad had left at 939 over the summer and hadn't bothered picking up. He did it the only way he knew how: by gutting it with a hunting knife.

Song: Champion by Professor Murder

Sweet Jesus, I have to laugh about this now. I was head over heels for a girl who had been a very good friend of mine, and told her before she left for a study/internship thing. There was mutual feeling there, but she told me it would never work out for pretty legitimate reasons that I dismissed at the time. Dumb, dumb, dumb romantic that I was, I figured that the more open I was about my feelings, the more she would warm to the idea of a relationship when she got back. Well, when she got back for Christmas, she invited me to hang out with her in her hometown. Things went fine at first, then they didn't. I was sent packing in an Amtrak back to Milwaukee on the second day. I sincerely hope that Sam erased the voicemail I left him asking him to pick me up at the station in Milwaukee. But he was there when I was almost Smithsian in my forlornness. Me, Sam, and Jason saw Lord of the Rings and got drunk. It wasn't long before they were making fun of me again.

Song: A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger by Of Montreal

Fridays and Saturdays visiting Mo at the bar. How I long for those days, of discounted gin and tonics and caucasians. This is a communal memory - we all went out there. The night is always more promising with cheaper booze and townies to ogle.

Song: Trash by the New York Dolls

Driving back from Halloween costume shopping, Jason spots a poor guy crossing the street, says, "What do you think he's gonna be for Halloween?" Sam says, "Hungry."

Song: The Classical by The Fall

Anyway, these are just a few of my memories of Sam, a tribute to a guy whose ADD isn't so bad that he'd get the wrong day to come to Milwaukee to go to a friend's wedding party. I'm so happy for you, Sam, and I'm sorry I wasn't there for you guys last night. We'll tip a few bottles in August, I promise.

Song: Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy by Super Furry Animals

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where to go for my birthday

The Arch

I haven't been here since I was maybe ten, maybe younger than that. You can see all of St. Louis from here. It is the site of a field trip I went on in second grade where I ate the greatest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever. The mullet-length-to-chest-hair-volume ratio is stratospheric. But the lobby is really depressing, so no.

Movie at the Tivoli

I'd go here, but my accompaniship - let's call her Lesbos (the mythical island itself, not the people) - is keen on getting hammered and hitting on fuzzy-chinned hipsters and homeless people. Also, I've seen enough British spoofs of horror movies.

Budweiser Brewery Tour

My accompaniship is also keen on getting hammered and hitting on tour guides.

Employment Register

Yeah, like if I want to fucking kill myself on my birthday.

Miniature Golfing

This sounds like a great idea, but I'm like weekend warriors everywhere - I go 36 holes or not at all. Also a good friend of mine's motto for Pride Week.


In which my accompaniship gets me a bunch of dirty magazines and we make sure to get rung up by the youngest, most innocent looking person there. Or oldest.


We don't buy anything, we just look at what we'd really like if we had the money and then we imagine what it would be like if we had it!!!


I know what you're thinking: Disgusting, right? No, this is another kind of felching - we have our friend Dave Felch hide, and then the person who finds him... well, they... Okay, it's pretty much the same thing as what you might have thought. If you're John Waters.


We'll eat one of those bowls with the cheese, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and fried chicken, and then have a licensed professional jam a syringe of adrenaline straight into our hearts.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oh, the Things I've Forgotten I Own

Since I was a T.A. and lived at home, I finally had some disposable income these past two years. I bought a shit load of music, books, and a few DVDs. I'm sketchy on DVD ownership because of how little I watch movies I already own and because so few DVDs are worth owning. Frankly, I'm starting to think that only collections like Criterion are worth perusing - and those movies merit numerous close watches anyway.

So I cleaned my room yesterday and reacquainted myself with some books I bought and subsequently forgot. A rundown:

1) Federico Fellini: His Life and Work by Tullio Kezich

I bought this with a writing project in mind, and I'm fairly certain I'll start this project as soon as I finish On Holidays. First off, the cover has one of my very favorite pictures of Fellini. I think it's from the 8 1/2 shoot, from the scene in which Marcello Mastroanni's character visits his harem (comprised of every woman he's ever known) and breaks out a whip, cracking it to get them in line. One of the most misogynistic scenes ever put on film? Tame by Eli Roth-ian douche baggery standards (I saw that guy on Conan earlier this week. Christ what a douche bag.). And, the scene is in keeping with what a bastard this character is, anyway. The photograph on the book, lest I lose my train of thought, is Fellini himself cracking that same whip.

Anyway, there's a lot in this book that I can't wait to get to, and what I've read I want to read again. Kezich was a great friend of Fellini's and so had insight that any other cineaste would die for. He culls Fellini's life, the things Fellini saw, and illustrates how Fellini incorporated them into his own work. Something I'm considering for my next writing project is that Fellini got started as a cartoonist. I'd like to track down some of his work. Anyway, I hope if I finish this fucking book, I'll stop having Satyricon-flavored nightmares.

Moon Metro Guide to Chicago

I thought this would be a great street-level guide and would be instructive for my story that takes place in Chicago. No. When I got this book, I also got street maps of St. Louis and Chicago. St. Louis' hangs creepily, like the big board in a stalker's war room, in my basement. Chicago's is MIA.

Roget's Thesaurus

Is it cheating to use this? How about memorizing words from this? How abstemious. I'm fairly certain that should make no sense.

Collections of Tin House, The Believer, The Paris Review, misc. others

I need to read these again for the first time.

Also, CDs

Every year, I buy more CDs than I did the last. It's usually an even split between older CDs (pre-2002, say) and newer ones, with most of the new falling into the that-year-I-buy them variety. There are always a few that escape my notice, which is why I'd probably be an awful critic. So I've gone over my recent buys and have been pleasantly surprised by some of those I've revisited. This is with the caveat that I just bought Something/Anything? by Todd Rundgren and a compendium of Tim Buckley. Why? Because the former looks like a cross between Nico, heroin, and Evel Knievel and the latter sounds like the blond British kid who led the revolution in South Park.

Wolves by My Latest Novel

From the same land as critically acclaimed The Twilight Sad, these Scots were perhaps lost in the critical acclaim of said band. They have similar subject matter - teen angst. My Latest Novel is a bit more on the twee side, but are not what I would call precious. Some of the songs, like some of Twilight Sad's, are plodding and, frankly, uninteresting, but there are a number of tracks worth checking out. Wolves gets off to a pretty slow start, but it quickly picks up with "Pretty in a Panic," which is replete with lilting strings and a simple but infectious beat. "The Job Mr. Kurtz Done" - well, I won't say this is a complete rip-off of "If You're Feeling Sinister" by Belle and Sebastian, even though it starts off with a very similar chord progression and ambient noise (unidentifiable vs. B&S's sounds of children playing... which still gets me right here). It's a lovely song, even if it's not particularly original. The bombastic "When We Were Wolves" features a great stomp of a rhythm and its lyrics and chorus "la la las" serve it well. It's a solid but not great album.

The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse

I'm of two minds about this one. It's got some lush orchestration and what not but can easily lapse into boring passages. I can't really recommend this one. The opener "Disaster" is a highlight, but there's just too much sludge around it.

Friend and Foe by Menomena

Fantastic. Jaunty chamber rock. Like the Animal Collective, the ambiance created by the actual music is just as instrumental to their sound as the music itself. That doesn't make any fucking sense, does it? At any rate, Menomena does not front-load this one. Some of the final tracks - Boyscout'n, Evil Bee, and West are just as powerful as Muscle'n Flo and Sky Phenomenon.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Journey blows. Onto the next order of business.

When I was at
Marquette, and I do say this with pangs of nostalgia, my friends and I would go to a bar that, every Monday or Wednesday(or whatever, my memory is hazy these days) had karaoke night. This should have been fun. But every fucking karaoke night, the same people would sing the same songs. This is the rundown.

The Rodeo Song

-I can't find a definite credit for who did this song first. I can tell you that every online source I've found has this for the refrain:

"Ya piss me off, ya fuckin' jerk, get on my nerves"

Except that on karaoke night, it became "you fucking bitch". Classy and Catholic. You could
expect this from the guys who carried their huge fucking jugs of water to every class and wore
muscle shirts even in the winter. Which was nine months of the year.

Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

-At the time, I assumed everyone was in on the joke: this is '80s cheese 'n' schmaltz
at its absolute apex (nadir?). I mean, this is John Cougar mixed with a lobotomized Springsteen
with "Jump"-level synths and the kind of Reaganite popisms we might expect from the era. For
the record, there are no
midnight trains that "go anywhere." They are very prim and prudish, however
inconvenient this makes for our songsmiths and glorious motivational story tellers of yesteryear.
And personally, I want to find those "streetlight people living just to find emotion." They got a dose
of what I need to have. Oh, and to finish the thought from the first sentence of this paragraph:
No, everyone was apparently not in on the joke. Irony is dead.

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Jim Steinman (performed by Bonnie Tyler)

-You'll never guess what fucking movie these very drunk frat guys have just seen. The thing
I can say in defense of the bars around my alma mater is that by the second time,
no one was laughing. I do wonder what song has replaced this in terms of asinine performance
piece at karaoke nights in college towns everywhere, but then I think everyone is too damn
drunk and unoriginal to take this anywhere else. By algebra, this takes me to "Wedding Crashers"
and how utterly embarrassed I was for my fellow man when people laughed at the sweet old
lady who called her own grandson a fag. How fucking outrageous, to have an out-of-it character
say something that is ostensibly reprehensible. I'd say American comedy died with this, but
Jamie Kennedy had already put a fuckin spear through its chest with
Malibu's Most Wanted.

Like A Prayer by Madonna

-Honestly? I got nothing bad to say here. Gives me pangs in my chest that make me
somehow nostalgic for those nauseous Friday night end-of-the-year dances at SLUH
where the girls in their glorified tube tops (means they had an attaching skirt) sang
along to this. Plus the girls who sang this were too drunk to get all of the verses, so they
stored all their energy for the refrain, which meant there was a lull where I could actually
get my order across to the bartender.

Honestly, this is all I can remember for now. And I've had a few drinks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I've spent time the last couple days at the library researching things for my stories and for the Ulysses paper I still owe one of my professors.

Things read for stories (and please don't think this is bragging; I'm slow and plodding and can't remember half of what I read - but, strangely the faster I go through something, the more I retain): The Elegant Universe, Life on the Mississippi, Audobon Guides to Wildflowers and Trees, Architecture of St. Louis (if I could find a street level architecture guide which in all probability does not exist, I would be ecstatic), The French Revolution (mostly the storming of the Bastille).

Okay, those are all for Bastille Day and I am aware that I can get myself in a rut by spending too much time going over all this stuff. But in this case, I know exactly what I'm looking for. Other times, I'll stockpile books that I'll flip through and forget reading because I don't know what I'm looking for.

The other order of business is Ulysses and my unwritten paper thereof. Okay. Malachi Mulligan is a gross materialist who does indeed have good intentions for Stephen Daedalus, but the self-serious bard cannot take the Buck's mockery. Stephen is his father's son; they are both wasting drunkards, yet Leopold Bloom wishes to serve as a surrogate father to Stephen. See the line on Rudy, "Me in his eyes." That whole section makes me really sad and gives me goosebumps. Bloom's humanism is what I keep coming back to when I hear other students or whomever say Ulysses is artistic masturbation, a scholarly program for masochists. Now, at about the same time Bloom is thinking of Rudy and if he had lived, Stephen, on Sandymount Strand, recalls that he has his father's eyes. Alright, enough, anyway. The eyes-business I got from James Joyce and Shakespeare. Anyway, this is all dizzying.

I had a new idea for a story, for the holiday series. It involves a periphery character who is based on a somewhat former acquaintance of mine. This man will be in his late 30s or early 40s and will suffer from a psycho-sexual narcissistic mania. The "star" of the story is a character named Christian, himself a narcissistic maniac, who has only appeared in one of my stories previously. The thing that I love about Ulysses is how real it feels. Of course, parts of it are completely told (Oxen, Sirens) and other parts are most assuredly not real (95% of Circe), but Joyce knew exactly where all of his characters were and what they were doing at all times. You can trace their actions by minor asides given by other characters. That's something I want to instill in my stories in this series, that these are real characters who are alive and active even when they aren't featured in the story. I'm striving for more interconnectedness - thus the pedant rock-crit editor Brian Porter puts down Tish surreptitiously and in another story is turned down and embarrassed at a concert by Tish's ex-girlfriend Erin. But I don't want it to be Porter telling Erin who he is, but rather, visual cues that we get from Erin match up with cues we get from Tish, even if their method of describing people (something I have tried to vary) are not at all similar. I won't say much about sexual mania now, what form it will take in the story, because it could and probably will change once I've written and revised the thing. I'm widening the series and making more characters the focus of the final five stories. The only one I no longer have slated is Thanksgiving, but even that I have a pretty good idea of - I think it will feature an awful faux-celebrity roast (I tried this before and it didn't work so well, but I'm gonna give another go, maybe with many of the same characters). The thing I have to do next is plot out the entire timeline, know what characters are doing and where they are even in stories they don't appear in.

My brother Jamie's ten year wedding anniversary is this year, in two weeks. It just occurred to me, though he has been an adult for most of my life, that he was my age when he was married. I feel like a third grader who just realized he used to think when he was in first grade that third graders were practically adults. I guess I'd be less chagrined if I hadn't just realized how the vagina works.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wedding... Party

I'm going to a friend's wedding party in a little while. I guess I should check out when exactly this thing is. Anyway, it's a Marquette friend, which means other Marquette people will be there. Maybe we can exorcise the demons of rigid, angry handjobs and go-nowhere political arguments. I've promised myself not to be all superior, and I swear I don't act like that normally (just shy and quiet and sometimes jokey, which comes off as the same thing), it's just that Marquette gatherings seem to bring out the worst in me.

I'm happy for my friend Sam, the marrying toady, and his invite included this thing where you put down three songs to be played at the party (they're getting married out of the country so this is one of those pre- or post-game things). Here is a list that I will need to whittle down:

"I Can't Wait to See That Look On My Baby's Face" by Dusty Springfield
- It's got this cinematic, romantic lilt to it, lounge horns and first-rate arrangement, not to mention Dusty's freakin' sultry pipes. It's also about not being able to wait to see the look on her baby's face when she tells him they're through. Kind of the opposite of the vibe we want here. My favorite Dusty track, though.

"Falling and Laughing" by Orange Juice
-I think it's kind of cool that Orange Juice appropriated disco beats for their jangly punk, and I love Edwyn Collins spastic vocals. I've heard two versions, one from the recently (as in last few years) released compendium, The Glasgow School, and one from a Japanese import version of You Can't Hide Your Love Forever. The former beats the latter hands down, just because the latter sounds much more staid and placid, and Collins doesn't sound like he's about to have a seizure. This is one of the leading candidates for the list. The female being addressed in this song, though, apparently has some serious self-confidence issues. I'll have to find out from Sam if this is the case.

"Backwater" by Brian Eno
-Just because it makes me feel like I'm the captain of a plexiglass pirate ship on a synthetic sea. But then, this isn't about me, so this one's out.

"Me and Giuliani Down By The School Yard" by !!!
-There'll be a lot of Republicans in attendance. But I don't know if they like to get down. Questionable.

"Everything's Just Wonderful" by Lily Allen or "Kick, Push" by Lupe Fiasco
-Danceable indie rock, even with the resurgence of post-punk like Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, is still pretty rare. Or maybe I'm not putting down a Ferdinand song so that I won't hear someone say, "Yeah, I remember three years ago, some hipster asshole kept making me listen to this shit." That hipster asshole was me, asshole. So here are the two poppiest tracks I own. Or they represent my pop canon. Lily Allen's melody sounds like the muzak at a grocery store. Catchier than you might imagine. "Kick, Push" is a rap song. It is one of twelve or so that are in my ipod. Nix on both.

"North American Scum" by LCD Soundsystem
-Something tells me this is crowd will not be big on irony.

"How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths
-"So you go on your own, and you leave on your own, and you come and you cry and you want to die." I can see myself like Clive Owen in "Closer", coming apart at the seams, watching miserable slags gyrating. I might include this just to see a seventy-year old man mouth the words "What the fuck?"

"Come Sail Away" by Styx; "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey; "Cherry Pie" by Warrant
-Because many Marquette alums' musical tastes have not evolved past 1986. Seriously. There were a number of people when I was there who would consider U2 to be a band that "takes a lot of chances."

"Your Body Is A Wonderland" by John Mayer
-That's the name of the song, right? They will play this, I will take the mic and say, "Remember when you fucking people made him famous?"

"Festival" by Dungen
-Great song, but I'm not so sure I'm ready for an acid rock freak-out, or to share such an experience with a number of people, most of whom I am not comfortable with.

"Fighting In a Sack" by The Shins
-This actually may be a choice. It's such a great take on rockabilly, and white people love to dance to rockabilly. We'll all do that retarded frantic leg kick thing that the soul-less have appropriated as our go-to fast music dance.