new writing in long forma proper archive for this site

dear brainfixer,
sometimes my life is filled with glamor and excitement. why, just last night - on a tuesday! - i was out until one thirty in the morning. i'll give you three guesses to figure out what i was doing.

dear brainfixer,
tonight is devil's night. please note that america's secretaries get only one day of nationally recognized appreciation per year, while supernatural forces of evil are celebrated for two full nights. NATAS! (that's 'satan' spelled backwards, which you'd know if you were already evil. for the untarnished souls, i thought it necessary to provide extra instruction.) does anyone know what the distinction between tonight, devil's night, and tomorrow, all hallow's eve, is? i was under the impression that the names were interchangeable depending on your historical perspective.

in england, halloween was originally known as Nut Crack Night or Snap Apple Night, and families celebrated it by sitting around the hearth, exchanging stories while munching on a veritable feast of apples and nuts. this supports my theory that the british are excellent at coming up with clever names for things and terrible at everything else.

dear brainfixer,
high on the list of things i can't believe i actually like (resting somewhere below the new dmx single and smallville on the wb) is this: BEETS. it's a relatively new thrill for me, but i find sweet, vinagrette beets so delicious i'm thinking they might even make it on my death row last meal list. (i hope they mix well with chicken and waffles and pizza and sour patch kids and cher's underpants but then again, what's the point of complaining if they don't mix? i mean, i'm about to ride the lightning. do you think the chef is worried about jeopardizing repeat business?)

eating beets is especially welcome today because they have arrived on the heels of a double birthday cake, double meatball plate, quintuple bourbon and coke weekend. and i was doing so well last week!

dear brainfixer,
inspired by the possiblity of drawing a connection between folksy anecdotes, severe back pain, and the shocked laughter that connects them, i found myself performing all sorts of google searches for an online version of thornton wilder's Our Town. (to no avail, i might add.)

the fruitless search did give me another idea, for two different art-film projects. first, one i would tentatively call "The Collected Works of Our Town" in which fifty different local productions of the play are stitched together on film to create one complete version. there is probably a statistic missing from Harper's that is something along the lines of "every 7.5 seconds another production of Our Town is being amateurishly staged somewhere in america." just a quick glance at my google results confirms this: one, two, three, four, five.

the second idea i had developed directly from the first. (when i started typing this confession i had only a single art-film idea for the play; now i have two. see how the mind works? see how fast genius moves? see how little time i'm spending on important things?) again, since there are so many simultaneous productions of Our Town being put up in high school auditoriums and steakhouses across our nation, wouldn't it be fun to have a competition and film it? five community theater productions are invited to stage the same play in a contest that will be judged on several criteria, including set design, acting, and original vision. they will all have the same small budget and be restricted from stretching outside of it. you could film interviews regarding progress and competition, as well as rehearsals, and the final productions and judging. then, and only then, can we really determine exactly whose town this is.

did i ever tell you about the time i was fired from an adult video store for incompetence? did i even need to?

dear brainfixer,
i went to two different parties in two different cities in the last 24 hours and at both of them the host served giant trays of store-bought meatballs bathing in marinara sauce. i declare october NATIONAL STORE-BOUGHT MEATBALL MONTH.

no, wait. i take that back. i declare october NATIONAL CRAPPY PARTY MONTH. yes, that's more like it.

dear brainfixer,
are you looking for a new way to let everyone know you're having a great day? well, here's my advice: say it with balloons.

it's been far too long since i've seen a healthy, well-adjusted adult carrying around a pink balloon for no reason at all. and today i carried 9 balloons! (there was a reason, but i regard that reason as superfluous.) you don't have to go overboard as is my tendency - one balloon might be just enough. don't forget to tie it around your wrist or it might fly away and then your day, and life, will be RUINED FOREVER!!!

incidentally, this balloon strategy is also a great way to let the world know you are now officially completely gay. why bother with traditional messaging? i mean, isn't everyone already working out and getting their hair styled like TinTin? go against the grain. say that shit with balloons instead of a well-listened-to copy of the soundtrack from the broadway play RENT. and if you think balloons lack the aggressive punch of other accoutrements, here's what you can do: instead of a boring colored latex balloon get a heart-shaped mylar balloon with "MOMMY MADE ME GAY" printed across it. that's how elton john came out. and don't you want to be more like elton john?

dear brainfixer,
have you ever wanted to just climb to the top of your building, set up a lawn chair, tear open your shirt, point your lawn chair toward the tallest building in the city skyling (making sure not to spill the bottle of zima you've brought to the roof with you), pound your fist against your chest, take a short puff on your inhaler and scream, "fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck mefuck mefuck mefuck meFUCK MEFUCK MEFUCK ME!!!!!!!"?

yeah. me neither.

dear brainfixer,
i have been reading a lot of crazy things from american citizens offering their own alternatives to the current military action in afghanistan. i can't tell whether these solutions come out of a need to be interesting or a need to be loved, but i swear that none of them are borne out of a need to be rational. here are some of the ones i've come across recently:

  • bomb afghanistan with love (OPERATION: ENDURING SNUGGLES)

this all seems severely depressing to me. even more depressing than seeing all U.S. postal workers dressed like those creepy scientists in E.T. i mean, didn't these guys once deliver Harry and David catalogs? what gives?

i feel like, outside of all these terrible ideas, the needle on the city i'm living in is constantly jumping grooves. you'll look outside your window and everything is calm. then you turn away and turn back and suddenly there are police officers everywhere. it happens that quickly. and the panic subsides just as quickly. yesterday, entering the subway i heard someone claim there were delays because there was a report of "either a bomb or anthrax" on one of the trains. then, thirty seconds later, we're all boarding for home like nothing happened. (and, to be realistic, nothing probably happened.)

get me laid!! (actually, don't. just get me some halloween candy, please, and a prescription for anti-anxiety pills.)

dear brainfixer,
we talked about my morning spiritual-alignment phrase yesterday. remember? that phrase i'm supposed to say, in a steady speaking voice, each time i encounter a mirror? well, yesterday we agreed that it would be "Looooookin' Good!" now i think that's going to get old really fast so if it's not too late, i'd like to change it. my new spiritual-alignment phrase is going to be "LESS PICKIN', MORE GRINNIN' ." you like?

dear brainfixer,
today, someone was talking to me about the prospect of re-dating an old boyfriend. their relationship began and ended many years ago, and we wondered about how to make sure you find the places where you still fit together as a couple. it seems to me that most of those matching grooves would be been worn down or ripped out of place by now. things would naturally have a harder time clasping, like an overused pencil box. but, as i said, rule nothing out. (unless you previously broke up for reasons of poor hygiene.)

i don't have any ex-girlfriends i would like to date again - i feel certain of this. (and not just because all of them are dead and carefully buried in various locations across america that defy pattern and continue to elude the fbi) but i was thinking, just hypothetically, that dating an old high school girlfriend again might be interesting sexually. (that's the first time i've used the word "sexually" on this site, incidentally. it took me a full three years to make it there. i hope this means my next session is free.) i think i would re-approach the sexual aspects of the relationship in very much the same way that george lucas revisited his original star wars trilogy for the 20th anniversary re-release. i would try things i lacked the confidence to try years ago, and other things i simply wasn't able to do because the technology was not yet available. there would be a lot of CGI, a few extra characters. but most importantly, if i had the chance to do it all over again, i would remember that throwing up before sex usually means there won't be sex. that's why i would be sure to throw up after sex.

dear brainfixer,
there are two things i really need right now but cannot find: a recipe for tom kha gai soup and an inexpensive but realistic fake beard. this double-need sounds suspiciously like the subject for the worst self-help book ever committed to print.

dear brainfixer,
finally had a chance to see arthur bradford's documentary How's Your News?, and i am so glad for it. i remember reading about this film a year ago or more, in some pop culture magazine (the kind that puts chloe sevigny on the cover, instead of tara reid. that's all i can remember, though) and thinking that it was just a really smart and interesting subject for a film. and it was.

describing it is easy and hard. here's the easy description, from the HBO "Frame By Frame" web site: a chronicle of the magical voyage of 5 adults with developmental disabilities as they travel across America, reporting their vision of the news from a hand-painted RV. it was really joyful and weird and uplifting in ways i didn't expect. what's especially interesting in the film is the way the interviewers, developmentally disabled adults with varying functional abilties, were in some ways deliberately set up to confront passers-by, to make people aware of their existence.

one particularly great scene occurs in new york where larry, a nonverbal member of the how's your news crew confined to a wheelchair in which he experiences constant and uncontrollable muscular fits while he groans and shrieks his way through conversations, is planted outside a subway entrance with his how's your news microphone and no other real explanation. people stream past him and employ their best avoidance tactics while larry shouts and struggles and extends his microphone to the best of his abilities, hoping to pick up some sort of interview. finally, someone stops and chats with him a bit and it is an enormous relief, albeit one laced with discomfort. when larry's aide comes back to retrieve him from his post, he says "are you ready? that was good. that's really hard to do."

there are so many reasons to recommend this movie. the cast is so perfectly suited and wonderfully diverse, and clearly having just about the best time of their collective lives. one of the interviewers, for instance, approaches her job with an unflaggable amount of professionalism, even when she is interviewing an angry homeless man and an auto technician in arizona, from whom she demands to know the status of the RV they brought in for repairs. (this interview is particularly great to watch because the interviewer badgers the staff of the repair shop with the polite tenacity of mike wallace.)

the film is touring now and will premiere on cinemax in january, but i experienced an almost immediate need to see it again as soon as the closing credits and theme song rolled away. when movies like this happen it seems especially crazy to me that they share a medium with Joe Dirt and Summer Catch. i feel like, if you make the choice to see Joe Dirt you should be forced to view it projected on a semen-stained bedsheet or something, just so you know where it stands.

the web site for How's Your News? is worth your time. it does a fine job of explaining how the film came to be, and has information about upcoming screenings and the people involved. the most immediately satisfying content on the site is the 'songs' area, including mp3 versions of many of the songs written for the film. the lyrics were written and performed by the cast with great attention. the celebratory theme song will probably stay with you for a long time, but my personal favorite is ronnie's tribute to las vegas. ronnie has an amazing ability to remember every television show and star from the 1970s and quotes them continuously throughout the film. but his great obsession is the actor chad everett, whom he continually refers to as "brother chad". (for reasons, explained at a late point the film, that only serve to make chad everett seem professionally weird and ronnie just a sort of innocent bystander.)

dear brainfixer,
as i was leaving the gym today (BRAG. actually, the only reason i was at the gym was to break a twenty so i could buy a treat from the fudge truck.) i saw a 'roommate wanted' sign posted on their bulletin board. i scanned it because i'm always trying to upgrade my living situation. the ad was looking for a mature, responsible roommate to share an apartment with two other people. gas included. electricity included. large bedroom. two other common rooms. good neighborhood. lots of sunlight. only $900 a month. looking for someone 'fun'. (i.e. not a lesbian) the ad was incredibly enticing.

then, at the bottom of the ad, where it included a contact phone number, i saw the following words: "ASK FOR STASH."

that is what is known in the world of business contracts as a "deal-breaker".

(and that last paragraph is what's known in the world of personal publishing as "pulling a fray".)

dear brainfixer,
film review submitted by teenage african-american male upon prematurely exiting a sold-out, 11PM showing of FROM HELL at the AMC 25 theaters in times square, nyc:



dear brainfixer,
i'm presently on assignment in an office that shares building space with Mattel toys, makers of molded plastic too large for an infant to choke on. this afternoon, as the elevator doors opened on one of Mattel's floors, i caught a brief glimpse of their reception desk. resting on the desk were a couple of large Adventures of Pooh characters - piglet and eeyore, i think - realized in heavy-duty plush, a pure air filter strapped to their snouts.

the onion recently claimed that irony is dead but at that moment i almost slipped into an irony coma. if i were a man who makes his living submitting tongue-in-cheek human interest photography to general interest magazines, i would have had what so many people refer to as "a historical moment". but instead i ate a bagel and carried on as normal. you should, too.

dear brainfixer,
the sandwich has recently surpassed pieces of eight as my #1 favorite thing to eat. this has caused me to rearrange so many things in my life, actually. for instance, now lunch is my favorite meal instead of brunch. also, i had to sell my "I AIN'T FAKING - I LIKES BACON!!" sweatshirt since it had a picture on the back of pig in a chef's hat cooking strips of bacon with eggs. i just felt it wasn't honest, really.

to properly love a sandwich, however, you need rules. hard, untenable rules. and wheat bread. (an onion bagel will also do nicely, unless your sandwich contains something sweet like peanut butter or candied fruit) here are ten commandments that until now have been written only in my subconscious but applied with draconian diligence:

Thou shalt not heat up things that should be left cool (e.g. avocado) and thou shalt not leave cool those items which would benefit - nay, require - the addition of heat. (e.g. pastrami, starburst fruit chews)

Thou must exercise discretion, making certain thou dost not prepare any single sandwich ingredient in excess, knowing well the exception to this rule shalt always be 'cheese'.

Do not do until others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, thou shalt never toast bread without first being asked to do so. This is not your sandwich, is it not?. (if thou art confused by that last question, apologies for its awkward formality.)

Thou shalt include pickle.

Thou shalt not include unacceptable pickle, including but not limited to the following: delicious-looking pickle with an unpalatable brown, rotten spot along its green belly; soft, limp pickle spears; pickles of a non-kosher variety, including those with cloven hooves and those boiled in the milk of their own mothers.

Thou shalt not frown nor threaten to charge 50 cents when a customer requests "extra pickles"; conversely, thou shalt be happy to oblige, knowing well that extra pickles only serve to increase one's enjoyment of the sandwich.

Thou shalt know that regular biblical commandment #1 will heretofore be considered null and void if thou dost offer only those weird ridgey hamburger dill chips, which in all honesty are not really even fit to call themselves pickles.

Thou shalt avoid shredded lettuce at all costs.

Thou shalt remind customers who order "smoked, mayo-less tuna salad" that this is indeed a very bad idea and, further, thou shalt go to great lengths to explain that the pain and suffering incurred through the consumption of this salad is far greater than the momentary guilt of consuming regular tuna salad loaded with mayonnaise.

Thou shalt stop serving liverwurst already, for christ's sake.

dear brainfixer,
thank goodness i haven't lost my mind. thanks to charles, here is a picture of mighty man as his civilian alter-ego, disco and cold duck billionaire brandon brewster. and here, for startling contrast, is a picture of brandon suited up as the mysterious mighty man. you might need to click back and forth a few times just to register the difference.

what's especially odd is the inclusion of yukk in all of this. yukk, to my knowledge, did not have a disguise. he was basically just a dog with a miniature doghouse on his head. day and night. that is the kind of thing that might draw attention. i'm kind of surprised there wasn't a single intrepid reporter who noted this coincidence:

"ok, chief. look at this photograph of billionaire brandon brewster, sailing on the Bella Donna with his dog. see how the dog has a miniature doghouse on his head? right, yeah. a doghouse. you can see it more clearly in this picture.

"now look at this picture of the very mysterious super-hero mighty man. and there, right next to him, is a dog who also has a miniature doghouse on his head. do you see where i'm going with this? no? ok. look at this picture: there's the doghouse on the head. now look at this other one of brewster and his dog: doghouse on head again. what? well, i suppose it could be another dog. yes, but, i never bothered to ask mr. brewster if there were any other dogs in the litter...why? because, i don't think that's a bit unprofessional. it was just an overs - ok, yes. certainly. i'll finish up that story on the gang of bank-robbing clowns that have been terrorizing the city. right away. oh, should i leave these pictures with you? no? ok, i'll just take them home and burn them, like you said. say hello to your family for me."

dear brainfixer,
forgive the obsessive nature of this discussion, but the whole tony randall / plastic-man / mighty man / bert convy requires one final post-script: "Baby Plas" is just about the greatest name ever.

(while searching for images of Baby Plas, i came across this quote from a young Plas enthusiast online: "Baby Plas and Scrappy Doo debuted during the same season. Baby Plas is so much better, it's not even funny." you couldn't be more right; it's not even funny.)

apologies to you and your profession. and special apologies to mister pants, whom i've already name-checked but must double-check now because any of my brief pop culture meanderings are severely dwarfed by his ongoing, thorough obsessions. also, apologies to plastic-man sidekick Hula Hula, for the crimes of ethnic stereotype committed against the good people of hawaii via his character.

dear brainfixer,
giving the tony randall animated series greater consideration stirred the ash-coated embers of my own cartoon memory and i was reminded of one particular saturday morning television show featuring a very non-heroic looking superhero. the show was called Mighty Man and Yukk, and was a part of the Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show because in the late seventies even cartoons were subject to televisions viral 'variety show' format. so weird.

anyhow, Mighty Man Etc. was about a gazillionaire who, for reasons i can no longer remember, had the power to shrink himself into a miniature superhero no bigger than a Battlestar Galactica action figure. his catchphrase was, i believe, "i implore you madam - this time place me inside your vagina feet first." (this was always followed by a cartoony deflated "mwah-mwaaahhh" sound efffect. incidentally, this is the same sound effect that can be heard ringing through my apartment every time i lose an erection. it's quite maddening, actually.) the billionaire was always accompanied by his loyal mutt, yukk. yukk was a bit of a mystery. he was essentially the ugliest dog in the known universe - so ugly that he was required to walk around with a miniature doghouse on his head (like the unkown comic or weird harold from the fat albert gang) lest he terrify any creature whose gaze firmly set upon the visage of yukk. in fact, the removal of this doghouse was sort of the deus ex machina on Mighty Man and Yukk, used with invariable efficacy against the supervillain du jour. the mystery surrounding yukk wasn't so much about what he actually looked like. (i kind of loved that there was no way you, as a viewer, could ever really know this. it was a neat trick in a medium that is traditionally very show-all. hitchcock would have been quite proud.) no, the mystery was a more simple question: why would a skadzillionaire with money to burn adopt such a shitty looking mutt? forget yukk's hideous face for a second. he was a pretty lousy looking dog al-around. overweight, dull coat, indeterminate breed. i think even a thousandaire could have done better, frankly.

now that i've wasted approximately 300,000 words on Mighty Man and Yukk, it's time to address my thesis: this cartoon's relationship to tony randall, broadway/television actor and possessor of dangerous ocular lasers. you see, although i cannot provide any really clear pictures of him (for he is so very small, as mentioned previously) you will have to trust me when i say that mighty man looks almost exactly like deceased game show host bert convy. i noticed the resemblance even as a child, and i actually assumed mr. convy provided the voice acting as well - that's how profound the similarities were. mighty man had a tightly curled perm helmet and ordinary brown suits as his alter-ego, brandon. but when he was in costume, he still kept the perm exposed instead of covering it with an expensive cowel or helmet.

i guess i never really got over the fact that i was watching a super-hero with a hairstyle that was better suited to conquering The Dating Game than saving the universe. maybe that was part of the joke. but it definitely gave mighty man a decidedly un-super quality. his hair was so "deliberate". couldn't yukk knock the perm out of that schmillionaire with one quick tip o' the doghouse?

two things you rarely, if ever, see on cartoon superheroes: dr. scholls and perms. i can't recall if mighty man accessorized with dr. scholls but, well, count on the perm. the civilian quality of this haircut never really left me, as you can see. and now perhaps it will never really leave you. (in order to guarantee this, please view that photograph of bert convy again.)

dear brainfixer,
mister pants rekindled my great love for celebrity impersonators. while he focuses on abraham lincoln impersonators, i've always been more interested in people who act as look-alikes for figures with fleeting or difficult-to-express celebrity. for instance, impersonating lincoln must be steady work - you have countless speeches to cull from and history never becomes less interesting in the public's mind. but what if you impersonate alan alda? how often does your phone ring?

what if people tell you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to famed actor anthony edwards? if he showed up at your party in surgeon scrubs, i would imagine the best reaction he gets is, "hey, you look a little bit like that guy from ER," which is no different than the reaction that convinced him to get into this professionally. you can't really increase the stakes as an official anthony edwards look-alike. well, not alone anyway. but what if...? no, you couldn't, could you? well, maybe...just maybe...if you added a little something extra? no, not him. HIM. now we're talking. we are talking, aren't we? hello?

dear brainfixer,
the winner of best english lyrics in a non-english rap song is awarded to:

you cannot front on that.
(corrections provided by mr. matthew atkatz, who supplied me with the quote in the first place and who, from the other side of the planet, attributed it to taiwanese hip-hop act The LA BOYZ. this web site especially rocks because it contains profiles of all the group's members, including Stephen Lin, whose profile explains "Sometimes he is cute and kind, he is tough too.")

dear brainfixer,
while trying to find a specific program to record via tivo (my love, my tivo) i chanced upon a listing for an animated program called "Jackie Chan Adventures". it had an abstract for today's episode: A poison may turn Jackie to stone. and yes, i'm recording it. how else will i know if the poison will succeed in turning jackie to stone?

i think it's interesting when animated series are based on the "lives" of real-life people. scooby-doo did this briefly, with a series of celebrities that no child would ever care about even remotely: cass elliot, jerry reed, tim conway. but they got it wrong by having the celebrities just sort of be themselves on-screen, yukking it up with the scooby gang. i think jackie chan had a better idea by exposing his animated self to threats like poison and dragons and devils and ninjas.

it made me think (and this is quite serious, although i realize it has "bit" written all over it) that it would be fun to see an animated program about someone like tony randall. it could be the real actor tony randall but each episode would have him challenged by a crazy cartoon threat, like some evil genius who is trying to control the weather. all of it could relate very closely to mr. randall's life - for instance, he might be concerned that heavy rains will keep audiences from seeing his off-broadway production of neil simon's Plaza Suite - but tony could handle the situation with cunning and pure heroism. he's totally tony randall, which is something that leaves the villains with their guards down, but he also can shoot lasers out of his eyes. that would be his secret weapon. and why not? it's a fucking cartoon. and it's copyrighted by me, in 2001. (so don't try to bite it.)

dear brainfixer,
yesterday's new york times magazine (which i must confess i only read because the newspaper was being used as a dropcloth for some house painting i was helping with and, since the nytimes magazine doesn't make a great dropcloth, it was spared) featured several stories about "love in the 21st century". some were confusingly sentimental - the authors seemed to be unsure just how deep to insert themselves into their reporting - but i really enjoyed the story about pre-adolescent couples. here's a great excerpt, detailing one 10 year-old girl's account of breaking up her boyfriend:

...she sang him a song her friend Sherrill Robbins had created, "The Loser Song."

It's complicated: first you sing "Loser" and make an L in front of you with the thumb and index finder of one hand. Then you sing "Loser" again and hold up the other hand in an L. As you sing the next line - "Double loser! Whatever!" - you connect the two L's into a W.

The song in only half over. You then sing "Get the picture" and mimic taking a picture. And finally, you make a long "Beeeeep," like an answering machine, and yell "Loser message!" Then you swing one of the L's over your head and walk away.

the story was really funny and vivid at first but then it made me feel a little awful, because that's exactly how my mom divorced my dad.

dear brainfixer,
great quote in wired news, from the band anthrax on the disease anthrax:
"When I learned about anthrax in my senior year biology class, I thought the name sounded 'metal'.... 'Anthrax' sounded cool, aggressive and nobody knew what it was," said a statement on the website, signed by the four members of the band. "Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death."
um, wait a second scott not. you're a metal band and your name now symbolizes fear, paranoia and death? and that's not cool? i have a feeling - when that statement was written and the band members read it back to each other they probably all took pause and then, ever so quiety, high-fived each other all around.

in uglier news, i just heard that the scare over anthrax is so great that even if you get the anthrax cd in the mail from columbia house, you should not open it. you should, instead, send it right back and request Rainbow's greatest hits instead. because no one is scared of rainbows.

dear brainfixer,
passed several outdoor racquetball courts today. saw a couple of lone individuals practicing handball. this is a sport i've always maligned with hostile language. i just can't figure it out. handball seems to be a sport that suffers from a lack of equipment. it feels like it was thrown together awfully fast, you know? i think the origin of the sport goes something like this: some people were playing racquetball and the ball got away a couple of hobos sleeping on the other side of the racquetball wall chanced upon the loose rubber ball and, without racquets or wits to aid them, started slapping at it with their open fists. this game occupied them for about 5 minutes and then one of them had an idea: let's kill those two guys playing racquetball and steal their racquets so we can play this game properly.

well, they never did kill those men but they did manage to scare them into relinquishing their racquets. the hobos enjoyed an afternoon of racquetball while the two sportsmen, stripped of their equipment, engaged in a desperate emergency game of handball (which, up until that point, was called "Tramp Sticks"). when passersby saw these two athletic men, dressed to the nines for outdoor sport, swatting at a ball with their bare hands, they assumed this must be a legitimate sport. and that's how the rich history of handball began. and this is where it should stop.

dear brainfixer,
while all of new york city nervously awaits mail from the anthrax fan club, i was eating a hand-pressed $1.10 burger at one of the last perfect lunch counters in the five boroughs. as is always the case with new, inexpensive meat programs in my life, my optometrist engineered the whole affair. he'd been staking it out, apparently, for quite some time and finally made his move yesterday. and, as is his obsessive way, again today.

their menu was very limited: eggs, burger meat, bacon, ham, home fries, american cheese, bread and, for whatever reason, tuna salad. one small grill, operated by the eastern european wife half of the husband-wife proprietor team, serviced meat-eaters and sell-outs (vegetarians) alike while the husband hovered over his wife, armed with buns and creamer. it was quite an operation. here are some sample menu prices: MILK SHAKE - $1.35; GRILLED CHEESE - $1.00; the same, with bacon or ham - $1.25; hot dog - $1.00.

i think the best thing about eating there, outside of the excellent quality-to-price ratio of the food, was the fact that lunch for two, including beverages, cost almost exactly the same as a pack of cigarettes. (at $4.60 a pack they were easily the most dear item on the menu)

and for dessert i was treated to an A+ quote from my optometrist. driving along the brooklyn-queens expressway (locals feel free to raise your fists and shout now), where traffic was unseasonably thin due to recent and necessary driving restrictions around the city, my optometrist remarked, "i love what terrorism has done for traffic."

dear brainfixer,
my friend sean is going to perform his aggressively tall brand of stand-up comedy on late night with conan o'brien this evening (12:35 am EST). i hope i can make this same statement again and again, with different names in place of sean, in the future. i know you've got an appointment this evening to unclog a shakra but, if you're not terribly tired afterwards (or if you can scam some excess energy off a reiki practitioner), i would advise you to watch and laugh.

dear brainfixer,
last night i was looking through my old high school yearbook. i was retracing my own steps, attempting to determine exactly when i lost my looks. (i already knew when i lost my virginity. all i had to do was read the "favorite things" section below my senior picture, where i'd included, alongside "rainbows" and "partying with my buddy jack daniels - wink!", the following very cryptic notation: "the front seat of my dad's pontiac 6000, 4.14.88")

while thumbing through the yearbook, past photos of the junior achievement club, i came across the senior superlatives. i guess every school had these, where seniors voted for male and female students in categories like "most likely to succeed" and "strongest skeleton". i wonder if this is a tradition that has gone away - if schools have decided superlatives isn't a communist enough activity for students of varying degrees of self-assuredness.

when i was a senior i was voted "class clown" which is really ironic, because i was a sad clown. i was certain my makeup, which included a painted on frown and a couple of big blue tears at the corners of my eyes, made this fact obvious. being class clown made me pretty popular, but not really for the right reasons. people would see me pull up to the school in my volkswagon beetle and watch fourteen or fifteen students pile out of the car and it just built a reputation for me, without much work. i don't really remember having any friends in high school, actually; just a bunch of people who needed rides or a glass of seltzer.

i don't miss high school at all. it was an ok time for me, so i shouldn't really complain. i mean, i saw my bodyguard so i know it could have been much worse. i was well-socialized but i didn't really take my life seriously at all. it wasn't until i enrolled in clown college that i became more self-aware. by the time i graduated from college i had gone from Sad Clown to Existential Clown to, briefly and painfully, Bi-Curious Clown. by the time i graduated i wasn't much of a clown at all. in fact, four years of clown studies with a minor in humanities made me a bit pretentious and i remember the first time i returned home and ran into some old friends from high school. one of them asked me if i was still a clown and i bristled. i composed myself and said, in a tone i'm sure must have sounded rather patronizing, "i am not really comfortable with 'clown', honestly. it's insulting. if it's all the same to you, i prefer 'harlequin'." and then i presented them with a can of peanuts. (which was, in actuality, a can of spring-loaded snakes.) i was such an asshole back then.

dear brainfixer,
i have become skilled at being an audience member again. in lieu of having steady paid work (hire me!), i've been writing like made and i've taken in a lot of thick media. here is my report:

sigur ros concert
very very dramatic. it wasn't like seeing a typical rock show. the band didn't mention how exciting it was to drive on interstate 90 on their way over, and they didn't openly complain about being out of tune. they simply played nonstop, pausing only occasionally to switch instruments, and exhaled alien tongues for a full hour and a half. it was one of the first shows i've seen with a really useful and relevant video projection. one particularly exhilirating moment occurred when the band performed with a negative-colored video of birds on a wire playing behind them. the birds, just white shadows, sat still for a long time. an occasional fluttering of wings seemed coincidentally timed with slight lifts in the music. then, as the song suddenly swelled into a giant beam of light and the silhouetted birds all exploded into flight from the wire, it became very clear that this was no coincidence and transcended it's "moment"ness into a kind of "happening". the only problem with seeing sigor ros live is it's hard to yell out requests. you can't very well scream, "play that song where you go 'AH-GYU, AH-GYU" over and over again. thankfully, they played that one anyway.

bjork concert
in an attempt to prove that i'm a really accessible target demographic, i went to see bjork perform at the lovely radio city music hall. (incidentally, i have decided this is the largest space in which i'll ever see a performer; i don't get those giants stadium shows where you're either a full zipcode away from the actual artists unless you're a weirdo ticketmaster addict or your dad is tony mottola and you can get super-close seats. even so, all those lousy people would make me crazy unless i had a nice lawn to lie down on. it's nice to get away from it all and rest quietly in a puddle of domestic beer.) nicole was ambitious enough to procure tickets, for which i am very grateful because the show was genuinely lovely. a million musicians and more harp-playing than i've experienced in my entire lifetime. bjork was cute and impish, like some feral, but euro-polite best friend of eloise, and the audience applauded wildly each time she bounced on the balls of her feet or shook a fist. that's the weird monkey-part of being a performer i suppose. i would hate that, i think. still, the sound was gigantic and beautiful and even when she retreated into old 120 minutes favorites like 'human behavior' she brought the crowd to their black-shoed and japanese-sneakered feet. but i guess 'human behavior' is a kind of 'like a virgin' or 'billie jean' to the dsl-ready set. lots of interesting haircuts at the show.
just too painful to watch, for a million reasons, from the ugly associations exhumed by one of the startup partner's tragic case of dockers-butt to the rhetoric and knowledge that all the insane and feeble-minded vc burning by a few slippery first-time entrepreneurs helped the bottom drop out so quickly.

where's poppa?
why didn't anyone tell me about this film? it's like an extended dream sequence excised from portnoy's complaint. the movie, directed by carl reiner, is such an amazing piece of anarchic comedy that i can't believe i fell asleep in the middle. actually, it really is just so damn good and seems to have (along with movies like harold and maude, which has a similar, but far more controlled, tone) set up the kind of shocking, did-that-just-happen humor that 'alternative' comedians like the upright citizens brigade, the state, and mr. show picked up almost 25 years later. that's the part that really completely shocked me. (granted, that kind of humor was probably a necessary part of history, as the country was being sent to die in vietnam during this same time) plus, it was my optometrist's late-father's favorite movie of all-time. here's a sample line of dialogue: "She's not just another nurse, ma. It means a whole lot to me, ma. And I want you to know that if you mess this one up for me, I'm gonna punch your fuckin' heart out. Got it?"

i have a feeling i liked this more than i should have. i think i just needed something dumb. the details far exceeded the broader strokes, i think. propers extended to ben stiller for casting garry shandling, though.

so much music, too. the strokes, whom everyone has a boner for, including me. maybe it's just nice to hear guitars. also getting a lot of mileage out of the new masta ace album, which should be out at the end of this month. hip-hop nerds should love it for being the prince paul album that prince paul forgot to put out. really creative, given the sea of bling the genre is currently drowning in. it's gotten so i'm not sure if i want to get crunked up, or just plain old flossy. maybe it's time we just got dressy-bessy, y'all.

also happy with the new sparklehorse, future pilot aka (feeding my inner-sissy), alicia keys (yes - i know it's like being into the black tori amos, but she's got skills.), and getting a lot of mileage from the isley brothers. spiritualized, like mozart, has way too many notes. jason pierce has finally lost his mind and he's created his own crazy fitzcarraldo.

the future holds many great events, too. like resfest this weekend, and the neil labute play next week. and let's not forget the impending threat of suicide bombers in every starbucks and old navy location in the five boroughs. exciting stuff, indeed.

please note that there are no books on this list. books are hard! (and no, i didn't read that self-help book you assigned. "the art of demoting your inner critic"? really now!)

dear brainfixer,
sometimes the most interesting words birth the least interesting web sites. and sometimes i should shut my giant cake-catcher.

dear brainfixer,
that's the last time i invite bubba sparxxx over for dinner. there's absolutely no ham left. the only good things that came out of his visit were the few bars i let him have, free of charge, for future use in one of his delightful openly-white-boy rap songs:
"it's tuesday night so put down the ronzoni / then come to my bar-mitzvah and sing the mony-mony / do the smurf do the duck get your braces stuck / then slap me five when you sing 'get laid get fucked' "

oh, bubba sparxxx, you new reason to make rednecks feel comfortable reconciling their racism with their secret love of rap music.

dear brainfixer,
if you like music and you like words written on the subject of music, you might enjoy my review of the new We Came From Beyond radio show compilation, printed in this week's New Times LA. and, if you live in the LA basin, you can even listen to this fine underground hip-hop radio show, sunday nights from 11pm - 2am. that's a double-promotion, y'all.

dear brainfixer,
i haven't watched much new television this season, which is almost exactly what i did last season, and the season before that. i do watch tv with great relish, but that's only because there are maybe three shows i care about. if you spread your relish too thin, well, i'm sure there's a way to finish that metaphor but that would require dignifying it in some way. and i can't do that.

however, after watching one of the programs to which i have sworn my loyalty, inertia caused me to catch the beginning of the Chris Wylde show. first of all, i suspect "Wylde" is not his real birth-name. that said, his idea of what makes a man "wylde" disappointed me a little. i assumed he was a feral child, and that his teeth would be sharpened into blood-stained fangs. with this in mind, i eased my prodigious girth into my hammock, armed with a fresh mint julep, and waited for mr. wylde to literally eat one of his guests alive.

he did not eat one his guests alive. in fact, it turns out mr. wylde, whose teeth actually do appear to be sharpened into fangs, believes the best way to make a wylde impression is full-frontal nudity before a studio audience. he came out naked except for a pair of filthy tennis shoes, and remained naked for quite a while. ok, i thought. maybe being naked is just the beginning of his dynamic persona. and i wondered what he'd start talking about. would he simply go on with the show as if nothing unusual were going on? would he tell any funny jokes to make the audience comfortable with his nudity? or would he run around and talk about how naked he is, making countless references to his exposed hog? guess which road wylde took.

dear people who think being naked is just inherently crazy and funny: put some pants on and read a book.

dear brainfixer,
ok. i'm trying something i've never tried before and i'm anticipating a very dramatic failure: my first-ever 'referral program'. here's how it works, roughly.

i have a new story to post on tremble, but i've decided to make it available by referral only. occasionally, i write tremble-specific things that are not immediately available but instead are sent out through my mailing list or some other special peer-to-peer promise. (if you nose around enough, as some have done, you'll also find one secreted away on the site, actually.) i like doing this, because it feels like a writer's equivalent to b-sides or limited run flexidiscs. and since i'm never going to get my single, "Octagonal Dream, Opus 4," stapled into the binding of Kerrrang magazine, where it belongs, this little writing trick of mine is the next best thing.

(please note that i preceded that paragraph with "here's how it works" and yet i haven't really explained how it would work. here's how it works:)

i'm going to post a new piece of writing to an unlinked URL somewhere on tremble. if you'd like to read it, your job is easy. just get one single friend to sign up for my mailing list here. (or you can sign yourself up, if you haven't done so already.) then, when that person is signed up, send me an email to let me know. include that friend's email address in your email to me and i'll send BOTH of you to the super-rare, near-mint condition tremble piece. easy.

if i can't confirm that someone has signed up, i will kill you both. that's the only catch.

this could be fun, or it could blow up in my face just like the free piggyback rides i offered last month. (i still owe 653 piggyback rides, which i will make good on as soon as i get out of traction.)

oh, and this just occurred to me. just so you know i've already made good on my side of the deal, here's a fragment from the piece:

"Anyhow, for our fifteenth wedding anniversary I took Mrs. Carter to dinner and then, as a surprise, we went to the Angleville Zoo. They had a temporary exhibit called "Dogs Gone Wild" and, knowing my wife as I did, I thought she would just plain love it. And when she asked me to give her a boost into the jackal cage so she could just pet the little guys, I couldn't say no. You should have seen her face."



plays well with others
it's a rhetorical question.  seriously.
hosted by diaryland!
for label-whores everywhere.
about the author.
typical contact page
sign up for site updates.  easy.

2001 todd levin