new writing in long forma proper archive for this site

dear brainfixer,
i still suffer from anxiety attacks. my jaw tenses up, palms slicken, breathing shortens, and eyes dart around madly searching for the "safety" pole. any quick, traumatic experience can set it in motion.

today that experience was learning this: Judd Apatow Is Only 33.
- I FELL APART AT 11:16 a.m. ON 31 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
was thinking about that pop duo, The Rembrandts, the other day. they have a new album coming out next month, and a history of at least three other official albums to back that one up. (the names of those albums are "Untitled", "LP", and "The Rembrandts". i think coming up with names for albums must be hard, but it can't be this hard. the upcoming album, Lost Together has a slightly more inspiring name. i do hope they haven't expended all of their creative resources nailing that one.)

here is the reason i'm thinking about The Rembrandts: they have all those albums but they're really only known for one song. and, unlike most other one-hit outfits, their one-hit is a tv theme song. that means they can't really even properly enjoy the success of their singular hit because, in a sense, they have to share that success with matt leblanc.

The Rembrandts actually had a minor hit in america prior to the Friends theme. (and they probably had 30 platinum singles in europe because EVERYONE has 30 platinum singles in europe. i think i have a couple platinum singles coming to me, in fact.) this means they actually had aspirations and a record label that supported them. but their single was eclipsed a million-fold by the awesome penetration of "I'll Be There For You [TV VERSION]". that song was a monster hit, both for the band and for sorority girls on the last day of school. (because they, like the characters on the television show, and the subjects of the song that precedes the television show each week, are 'friends'. high-five.) The Rembrandts could not have possibly anticipated this, could they? the royalties must feel good, but you know what must feel lousy? touring.

because how would you feel if you were in a rock band, like any other rock band, and your greatest moment was essentially recording a commercial? no one requested to hear linda lavin belt out the theme song to Alice on american top 40, did they? and she would have been pleased as punch to travel the globe in support of the Alice theme song. but for a long time everyone wanted to hear the Rembrandts kick the friends song, over and over and over again. were they happy to play it? i think despite the thunderous ka-chink sound booming in their ears above the din of "I'll Be There For You" it must have been a rather depressing experience. still is, i'm sure. if you're The Rembrandts it's almost not within your rights to insist on playing your "other" hits - the ones no one has ever heard and never wants to hear in a million years. in fact, 99% of people at a Rembrandts show are going to respond to a new song, meaning any song they haven't heard at least 10,000 times through every medium possible, the same way they'd respond to anything unfamiliar - with complete indifference or, at best, inarticulate mockery. (and surely, to keep audiences from getting bummed out by long, confusing sets filled with alien music, The Rembrandts would be very likely stuffed on a lengthy bill sponsored by some local pop radio station, alongside other artistically limited marionettes such as natalie imbruglia, the del fuegos and mandy moore.)

how would you feel if, as a writer, you toured the country on a book reading/signing for your new historical fiction and everyone just wanted to hear about how you came up with that awesome talking chihuahua commercial for Taco Bell? is it any different for The Rembrandts? My guess is they might salvage some semblance of dignity by playing the "long"version of "I'll Be There For You", with all those extra, controversial lyrics the Friends producers excised out of fear. (the verse about rape, for example.) Either that or they retreat to their bus immediately following each 20 minute set and hook right back into their heroin IV drips as they nod along to the next town.
- I FELL APART AT 02:36 p.m. ON 30 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
my friend julius is awfully funny. please visit his world wide web site and congratulate him; today is his bar-mitzvah.
- I FELL APART AT 05:22 p.m. ON 29 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i have compiled a list for your records. here are some of the LEAST misleading film titles in cinema history:

  • Bats
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • The Blob
  • She's Having a Baby
  • Seven Samurai
  • King Kong Vs. Godzilla
  • The People Under the Stairs
  • Baby Geniuses
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  • Alien
  • Aliens
  • 3 Men and a Baby
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die
  • The Incredible Shrinking Woman
  • Home Alone
  • The World's Biggest Gangbang
  • Monkey Trouble

conversely, here are two of the most misleading movie titles in cinema history:

  • The Big Red One
  • Funny Girl

- I FELL APART AT 10:30 a.m. ON 29 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i wonder what the white house gives to trick-or-treaters? i'm guessing a lot of kids go there, expecting the President might hand out full-size Snickers bars. it would certainly be a good press opportunity, but it might start attracting kids from the poor neighborhoods and i'm sure the President wouldn't want that.

oh, and in case you're wondering, at the egyptian pyramids they just give out dried figs. my mom wouldn't even let me eat them last year because they weren't properly wrapped. (ironic, considering the ancient egyptians' obsessive-compulsive love for wrapping things.) all in all, a total gyp. even worse than getting a pencil at the taj mahal. (but that's only because the pencil was made of solid gold and rubies.) hey pyramids - give me something good to eat. and if you don't like that perhaps you'd prefer to smell my feet.

next year i'm going to leave a flaming bag of dogshit at the pyramids. that should send out a message.
- I FELL APART AT 12:33 p.m. ON 27 August, 2001

dear brainfixer,
allow me to clear up some confusion. when i describe myself as a 'renaissance man' i don't mean that i have a broad spectrum of cultural or scientific pursuits, or that i excel at a number of different things. when i say i'm a renaissance man i simply mean that i throw my excrement out the window and probably won't live past 40.
- I FELL APART AT 11:16 p.m. ON 26 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
already experiencing serious guilt. about my last confession. not guilty about how i feel (that would be a good start, though) but about what kind of position these feelings puts me in. first, there is the insane irony of how/where i offered this confession. naturally, the irony didn't escape me but when you think about it, there really wasn't a more appropriate place. after all, surgeon general warnings for cigarette would look pretty silly pasted to the sides of soda cans.

the second piece of that guilt is this: what now? i mean, i am bored. so why continue? am i part of the headache? probably. but when i'm bored i do one of two things: i fight or i write. and since i've already thrashed the daylights out of every brick-headed so-and-so west of cannery row, i'm left with a solitary alternative. so the player hater continues to play. how's that for navelgazing?

those breathing exercises you taught me are helping. yesterday i fell asleep during an afternoon swim. today promises even more.
- I FELL APART AT 03:50 p.m. ON 26 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i just got tired of reading people's online journals. this was particularly disappointing to me, as i was accustomed to apportioning an hour or more of each day to strict journal plundering. now that missing hour is squandered collecting alms for the poor and the like.

the truth is, i wasn't learning anything new. i am as guilty as i am critical (a quality which might possibly be the very core of my character - something i'm sure your notes on me confirmed long ago.) but i'll break it down nonetheless. i miss the roundabout truth afforded by the long, amorphous stretches of writing i used to find on people's sites. that was before auto-publishing (like this) and before a need for immediacy and frequency overwhelmed the need for careful expression. before writers became sayers, their fingers poised over their POST AND PUBLISH buttons each time a fleeting thought passed through their cerebral marshland.

and then i stopped learning things. everything pointed to everything pointed back to everything. it's like the promise of interactive text was being realized completely and here was its message: it hurts to finish a sentence. so i got bored. i didn't care who said what about whom and i cared even less about seeing both active parties concur and link to and fro and become each other's mirrors. mirrors pressed tight against each other, casting an infinitely looping reflection, without capturing an image. i decided at a certain point that if i wasn't laughing, i wasn't getting anything from the experience. because a laugh is a real, quick entertainment experience. like a riddle on a dixie cup. that's quality + brevity.

as i was saying (i think), i stopped learning things and i got nervous. i thought "if ideas have been broken down this microscopically, what's next?" i was waiting for a while and then, quite accidentally, i found out where the truth is hidden: amazon wish lists.

consumerism, even in a sadsack economy, is a language we all speak. and i've found that i'm learning so much more from people's material wishes than i'd ever learn from their terribly self-conscious textual insect bites. i can look up an individual on amazon.com's wish list search tool, read about the things they've decided for whatever reason they absolutely need, and get to know them a bit better that way. the lists are not hurried, even if they're aggregated by separate moments of inspiration. and the same trends exist as they would on people's journals - shared links, common threads, etc. - but they're abstracted perfectly. (from a continuous loop of hrefs to pals and such, i can just see "buy me the WAITING FOR GUFFMAN DVD!!!" and i've got all i need.)

wish lists are chronological and therefore appropriately autobiographical. i can chart influences, discover new things, develop points of research, all without hollow posturing. occasionally, you even get some extra insight from wish lists via the creator's per-product comments. for instance, i was on someone's wish list yesterday and, in his plea for a copy of some Hal Hartley film on DVD, he added (unnecessarily, but wonderfully) that this is not the director's best film but is one of the few ones available on DVD. naturally, he also included the title of the director's 'best' film so, while he is requesting gifts, he is also being completely dogmatic. there are nice revelations in amazon wish lists that have long since disappeared from personal web sites, for the most part. i think it's because they don't think anyone is watching. this is starkly different from what can be intuited from the recent trend in online journaling, because in that medium the author is hopeful (or sometimes POSITIVE!) that people are watching, even when they really aren't.

guess what? i'm watching, but i'm not watching what you think i'm watching. i'm just like roddy piper's character in the john carpenter classic, They Live: when you think you know the answers, i start changing the questions.

please note how rushed this confession feels. i am my own worst enemy.
- I FELL APART AT 1:03 p.m. ON 25 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
advertising just got under my skin again. this hasn't happened since the profoundly disturbing introduction of "charlie tuna" for star-kist. (i still check my can's list of ingredients for "beret" and "eyeglasses.") yesterday, emerging from the safe womb of the subway into the damp, shrink-wrap-and-gypsy-scented air of chinatown, i spotted a new advertisement for DIESEL brand clothing. the ad's image was (what i believed to be) a nude, adolescent waif against a stark white background, performing a nearly impossible yoga position that resulted in both her naked ass and face pointing in the same direction. oh yes - and i think she was wearing diesel clothing but i blacked out before i got a good look.

it turns out, on closer inspection, that this was a semi-lifelike mannequin. there are more of the same on a new "lifestyle" web site launched by the great, sniggering eurocreeps at diesel. i am not sure whom they've recruited to create these plasticine models: charles ray, the chapman brothers or real doll. however, no matter who is responsible, i would really love to see a photograph of diesel's dumpsters after these ads have gone out of fashion.
- I FELL APART AT 1:28 p.m. ON 24 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
my friend Samantha Matin Bliss (guess who had hippie parents?) is very new to email but possesses an economy of words that is perfectly natural. from her, better than anything i have to say:

HI. i went for coffee this morning in Oakland and there was a brown dog with a guy all dressed in brown. this dog first came up to me and rubbed its face on my brown pocketbook, and then went to the next guy and rubbed on his brown shoelaces. he liked brown.
- I FELL APART AT 03:32 p.m. ON 23 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
gorillas, dead. tigers, smashed and dead. bison, ground to bits, barely recognizable and surely dead. monkey with banana, spared. then god made it rain cold milk, and all the dead were washed from the rocks.

that was the screenplay for a short film about me eating animal crackers.
- I FELL APART AT 02:27 p.m. ON 21 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i have been plagued by a recurring dream starring an ex-girlfriend. i told you about her. she was extremely mean, completely unrepentant. she has the word "HATE" tattooed across the knuckles on her right hand. and on her left hand, she has a tattoo of the word "IBID."
- I FELL APART AT 09:59 a.m. ON 21 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i feel unstoppable today. i just added a second entry in "New Words". maybe it is unfair to pretend The Tremble Dialogues is an original piece, since it's merely the transcription of a recent email conversation. but still! joy! don't you feel it? like the storm cloud is passing?

i realize you're probably shaking your head right now, and thinking, 'ok, but have you completed your sketch-writing assignment or your book proposal or your animated tv series pitch?' and, since i can't be there to answer that inquiry, please just try to recall the hangdog expression i get each time you ask a question of this nature. that should give you an excellent idea of where i'm at.
- I FELL APART AT 07:54 p.m. ON 19 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i added new words called "The Robosaurus Doesn't Sleep Here". it's a section from another, new character-based sketch. it's not my proudest hour, but i am trying not to think in terms of "should haves" and just focus on completing work. on completing mediocre work that tugs uncomfortably at my need for perfection in everything i do. thanks for helping me with this. you're the best!
- I FELL APART AT 04:41 p.m. ON 19 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i don't think i'm going to read that ursula le guin novel; i just don't see how it will help me with my brain. don't write this off as an act of passive-aggression, please. if you'll recall i read the drama of the gifted child, at your request. and i read Taming Your Gremlin and Taming Your Gremlin, Part II: The New Batch. i even rented Ghoulies, just in case. but i didn't get anything from them, apart from a huge case of the heebie jeebies and a touch of the timewastie pasties.

instead, while clearly disobeying your assignment, i found other reading material. in an effort to better myself, to see myself more clearly, i went to my local bookseller intending to pick up the new oral history of motley crue (umlauts withheld, due to html laziness). however, in a case of good fortune and amazing inventory placement, my attention was drawn slightly to the left of this book until it very directly faced darden asbury pyron's recent biography of Liberace. it's a thick tome - including over 50 pages of footnotes - but it's an interesting read about a character whose quirks were 100 million times more inspired than any four day whisky-and-vagina benders motley crue can still remember. (although i'm of complete faith that whiskey-soaked vaginas may still enjoy their place in the pantheon of english non-fiction.)

also read cintra wilson's indictment of celebrity, A Massive Swelling. her analyses are hilarious and detailed, bordering on tangible, visceral. a book like this provides comfort in knowing that real celebrity, just like the sort of substantially more boring and obsessive, refrigerator-clipping celebrity of the web, is a popularity that is generally not based on merit. i'm sure that any celebrities who might have had her book read to them would react to it the same way others might react to my paraphrasing of its purpose: another jealous bitch. well, to that i say this: a bitch is a female dog and dogs are nature and nature is beautiful so thank you for the compliment. (that and more in my upcoming collection, Graceful Exits from Ugly Situations.)
- I FELL APART AT 03:31 p.m. ON 18 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
i feel a little better about the near-future of cinema, having just seen the movie trailers for richard linklater's new film, waking life, and the new wes anderson film, the royal tenenbaums. waking life, in particular, looks beautifully labored and smart and new - unless you are a giant web design nerd and have seen this kind of frame-tracing animation a lot and, as a result, decide very unfairly that waking life might not be an independent vision after all but a big, visually derivative stinkpot. to that i say: your web site sucks. i have no idea why i say that, but i do. bad spirits deserve bad spirits. that's what the navajos said - the ones who run the casinos.

p.s. remember when you said that working on a painting would be a good way to get me out of my head for a bit? that the physicality of it was just what i needed creatively? and then i told you that i kept shifting my priorities around and placing "finish painting" dead last, right below "brush teeth"? well, i had an idea today. i think i'm going to paint my cats' litter box. it's beige and plastic-horrible and i think i'd like to paint it to look like a wooden shed with a little painted sign on the side that reads "Shh!!!! Making Poops." do i need to double up our appointments again?
- I FELL APART AT 02:44 p.m. ON 16 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
saw a trailer for a new feature film called Summer Catch. it's about baseball - and girls! (see how they did that with the title? seems like they definitely didn't go with their first, and shittiest, choice on that one.) the trailer said, "warner brothers presents FREDDIE PRINZE, JR." not sure why anyone would want to present freddie prinze, jr. anywhere, really. in fact, freddie prinze jr. makes me honestly hope suicide doesn't skip a generation.

(i promise i'll write in my 'rage journal' after that comment. that was negative behavior.)
- I FELL APART AT 12:37 a.m. ON 15 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
ugh. hit another brick wall today. i try to avoid occasions that demand open confrontation with my inferiority complex, just like you suggested. as often as possible, i resist reading books, watching tv and films, attending art galleries and museums, checking my horoscope, opening fortune cookie, and talking to women. it was starting to work.

today i was out of my regular elements and my attention was caught by a steven segal film playing on television. i believe the film was called, I DEATH YOU!. during one of the few scenes bereft of nail-biting Pakistani Action Film Style violence, mr. segal is seen witnessing an important live news broadcast of a corrupt senator issuing a somewhat ingenuine and secretly loaded statement during a press conference. at the close of the broadcast the senator turns directly to the camera and pronounces falsely, "you can take that to the bank!" hearing this, mr. segal reflects for a moment by sitting completely still and then cocking his head at a slight angle. (it is a gesture of almost autistic simplicity, betraying its many layers of serious thought.) then, he quietly seethes, "i'll take you to the bank, mr. senator...the blood bank."

and hearing this it all comes back to me. i feel as though i am unsuitably quotable - miles from it. he's that good. why isn't he sitting at contemporary america's new algonquin table, hollywood squares? another overlooked genius, perhaps? another unpublished author destined to die penniless and syphillitic? i should be so lucky, to be that misunderstood, and to be that romantically diseased.
- I FELL APART AT 10:17 p.m. ON 11 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
yesterday the mayor issued emergency instructions for the excessive heat in our steamy city. after consulting with a range of experts in municipal planning he declared, "good people of new york - it is in your best interest to go see a movie or hit the mall!"

i was sort of sad that he forgot about public libraries, museums, cultural centers, or just inviting people to hang out in city hall, on him. i know what you'd say about this: that i'm collecting evidence to prove that ny's latest mayor will not stop meddling until he turns one of the world's most cosmopolitan and vibrant and crazy cities into an expensive new jersey suburb. but aren't the signs all in place? remember the special committee he organized to have giant wrap-around oakley sunglasses designed, to be worn by the statue of liberty? was i the only one troubled by that? it was a 16 billion dollar operation, after all - and he insisted the glasses be constructed with scrap metal from operational nyc taxi cabs. but that never came to fruition. and THAT never makes it in the papers. and THAT'S why my xeroxed newsletter called "The Big Stink" needs to be in the hands of every new york resident. so stop wagging your finger at me, just this once.

p.s. in brighter news, i am almost finished with that list of incidents in which i've swallowed my anger. i am trying to be better about our homework assignments.
- I FELL APART AT 02:45 p.m. ON 10 AUGUST, 2001

dear brainfixer,
remember when you said i should start getting out of my head and into my body more? i think you'd suggested something highly physical, like joining that Zim Zam league in the park or wearing lace-up shoes instead of velcro ones.

i took your advice, followed your homework, and now i'm pressing a homemade ice pack on my knee. i'm unable to walk on it (the knee. i could probably walk on the ice pack very easily if i could just get this knee to work.) and was up all night writhing in pain, trying to find a way to fall asleep all at once, while sharp teeth of agony grip my kneecap from both sides.

i think i'm learning all the wrong lessons. this should tell me to be more aware of my physical self, right? is that what you'd say? well, that's not how i feel. honestly, i just think this makes me aware that "the marionette" is not the easiest breakdancing move to execute, even if you're being compelled to do so by the robot sounds of "Don't Stop The Rock." did i fail my homework assignment?
- I FELL APART AT 11:05 a.m. ON 6 AUGUST, 2001

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