new writing in long forma proper archive for this site

dear brainfixer,
leaving for los angeles tomorrow. it wil be a short, five day, 12 meal, 30 drink vacation. normally, before trips to los angeles, i drain the toxins out of my body in preparation. one might assume this is because i desire to fit into the "healthy" lifestyle of the city but i promise it's not. rather, i am trying to start fresh for all the horrible poisons i'm sure i'll consume when i arrive.

los angeles may do health food really well but i think that's a relatively small and well-publicized subculture. in truth, the city does junk food better than any other american city i've ever visited. fatburger, in-and-out, johnny rocket's, apple pan, pink's dogs, and a doughnut shop on every sweet, glazed corner. no one holds a deep-fried, chocolate covered candle to la. chicago's tubesteaks are snackwells compared to roscoe's chicken and waffles.

i'm getting a little concerned about my cleansing efforts for this particular trip, though. ordinarily i fuel up with a few gallons of spring water, some spinach, and a bowl of Coutts Fibre Medley (developed by a friend in boston and enjoyed by everyone with good digestive sense). this time i'm down the wire and the last few things that i have placed in my belly are, in reverse chronological order: milk duds, french fries, vodka, braised leeks, condensed milk, tea, pork chop, twizzler. trouble ahead.

dear brainfixer,
waiting in line at an all-night mcdonald's drive-through in brooklyn (at the urging of my optometrist), was treated to the rear view of a macked-out yukon suburban tank. obsidian, tinted windows, three hundred feet off the ground. the entire rear window was a shrine for three separate vehicle decals. arranged symmetrically along a common vertical axis they read (top to bottom) as follows: "PIMP MOBILE 02"; "WE'RE COMING, MOTHERFUCKERS" (written as a caption beneath an image of the statue of liberty superimposed over an american flag); and "GOD BLESS AMERICA". my first reaction was "thanks for all your opinions."

forgetting the juxtapositioning of messaging for a second because it's just such easy prey, i would like to spend a moment to reflect on "pimp mobile 02". this decal made a particular impression on me because it allowed for a number of things. first, another (similar?) pimp mobile existed somewhere under the same ownership.

second, by cataloguing this vehicle with "02" instead of "2" (honest) or "II" (classy) or the unfortunate and, frankly, too common "too" (asshole) the owner is distinguishing himself with ambition. he has considered the possibility of more pimp mobiles in his future - as many as 97 more. his strategic planning completely overshadowed his financial planning. (a man with the money to place 99 pimp mobiles on his mind, even as a remote consideration, has no place in a mcdonald's drive-through at 11pm at night. that's the provenance of impoverished loners and their medical professionals only.)

finally, the motorist commanding "pimp mobile 02" through the rugged asphalt of greenpoint, still possesses a sense of humility. otherwise, wouldn't he have named the vehicle "pimp mobile 002" or, if i dare, "0002"? no, the man behind "pimp mobile 02" probably thought to himself "i'll never need more than 99 pimp mobiles in my lifetime and, if that ever changes, i know i'll have become someone i never wanted to be." the "02" is probably there to remind him of his roots, just like that canceled check for one million dollars that jim carrey totes around in his wallet, a private token he shares only with himself and barbara walters (and the other 40 jillion people watching her pre-academy awards special).

and what does the man behind "pimp mobile 02" eat? his order, displayed on the computerized screen for all to see: one double cheeseburger, totaling 99 cents plus tax. i guess his hoze will have to divide it amongst themselves.

dear brainfixer,
hope you're simply having a wonderful christmas time. here's my gift to you: some new words, assembled carfefully and titled, "my racist aunt."

dear brainfixer,
i have so much trouble on my mind, and i'm still not convinced that you didn't cancel our last therapy session out of boredom. (your cough sounded a bit stagey) however, i would be a hypocrite if i claimed freedom from fault in this same area.

if you're interested in g-funk, you can read my review of the new Nate Dogg album at New Times Los Angeles.

p.s. this is surely a smug and geeky comment but this smug geek cannot resist: i've already received hits to this site based on people's search engine queries for "MISTLETOE +PANTIES". does anyone know the number of the u.s. patent office? (i especially love that someone was searching for mistletoe panties at the very last minute.)

dear brainfixer,
i'm working on a business proposal letter and i want to make sure i'm coming across with confidence and a sense of professionalism. here's what i have so far:

Dear President of Spencer Gifts:
I am a writer and, on occasion, an empath. I am also an inventor, and I think I have a surefire holiday shelf-clearer to revitalize your sagging empire of "blue" novelty gifts. Imagine if you will, right next to the boxes of "reindeer poo" and "santa's little helper" scrotum cozies, the following item: MISTLETOE PANTIES. think of the amazing suggestive possibilities. the line, if successful, could be extended to mistletoe boxers or mistletoe adult diapers. for the sporting pervert, mistletoe hockey helmets. spend a moment thinking about this one. if your eyeballs don't morph into cartoon-style dollar signs, i would be very very surprised.

lemme know what you think.

dear brainfixer,
i've decided that from now on tremble is going to be rated "R", for vampire violence. not violence against vampires or by them, but just the simple presence of way too much vampire-style violence.

slightly related, i remember gentler times when HBO would make their monthly channel guides readily available to subscribers (when did they decide we don't deserve to know what's on HBO?). next to each program description was a series of acronyms used to describe its content. i used to sprint the 75 feet from my house to my friend's house and hang out all night watching HBO and cinemax (he had both premium networks because his father was a rich oil tycoon). we would scan the listings, hoping to find N (Nudity) or, better still, SC (Strong Sexual Content). finding that kind of programming was never a problem because this was way back in the freewheeling, love-for-everyone 1980s. every movie contained some N. Sixteen Candles had N.

those days are a distant memory now. movies like About Last Night and Hardbodies 2 serve as curiosities documenting a more permissive time, when sex and morality were parallel lines. in fact, N and SC have become so scarce in contemporary movies that i would even settle for BN.

dear brainfixer,
there are only a few people i know for whom everything turns to solid gold upon contact. king midas, for one. he had a pretty consistent touch. also, goldfinger - though we were only acquaintances. then there's the makers of hot tamales and mike and ikes. and, of course, mr. ben benjamin. ben is obsessive and masterful in his approach to the art of distraction. i wish i could follow through like him, honestly. ben's latest digital piece, "What Would Abraham Lincoln Want to Say to Us Today?", is a fine product of his most recent obsession - and i'm not just saying that because i wrote one of the entries.
(when you visit this link, you'll have to click on the words resting in the middle of the page to see the project. it's a bit deceiving, not unlike lincoln himself.)

dear brainfixer,
sure signs of man's unintentional inhumanity toward man, corporate edition:

  • a porcelin mug bearing a company logo, its spider-cracks filled with a long history of flavored coffe
  • a simpsons collectible figure, all bright colors and funny lines, trapped behind its hot-glued, molded-plastic window, propped atop a cubicle wall
  • a large paper doily resting in a shallow basket. resting on the doily: poppyseeds.
  • the dull thud of a two-pack of Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookies (now with peter pan peanut butter from beatrice corp.!!!) after its four-story vending machine plummet
  • the staggered follow-up sounds of a quarter, dime, and nickel being dispensed
  • the color beige and all of its many shades of indifference
  • in the laser printer, a printed screen from ebay, detailing an auction for "Lil' Glory: The Patriotic Teddy Bear"
  • a bathroom counter dappled with puddles of hot pink softsoap
  • the email subject line: "new secret santas policy - IMPORTANT!"
  • the name "vicki" followed by the title "human resources manager"


dear brainfixer,
you know that joke about the tramp who tells a stranger he hasn't had a bite in three days? then remember how, as the punchline, the stranger bites him? it's not nearly as funny when you see that actually happen on the street. can investment bankers spread rabies?

my advice to tramps and scoundrels: if you're trying to get money or food from strangers, consider revising your statement. instead of saying the traditional "i haven't had a bite in days", try this: "hey buddy, i haven't had someone put warm, delicious food into my mouth in days." by making the extra effort to be clear and understood, you're much less likely to be bitten by wiseguys.

dear brainfixer,
i was crushed against a woman on the subway this morning, which afforded me a glance at the book she was reading. it was called Diagnosis Dead. i thought that was a very inspirational title but a little disappointing all the same. i hate when mystery books give away the mystery so soon. perhaps readers would have preferred to guess that diagnosis themselves. wouldn't it have been wiser to string the reader along, making him think the diagnosis could be throat cancer or dropsy or bad vibes?

i decided to go to and look up other mystery novels. i was surprised at how many of them reveal the mystery right in the title. here's a sampling:

  • My Husband, My Murderer
  • The Fedex Guy Did It
  • The Soup Was Poisoned
  • Suicide...or Murder? Suicide.
  • How to Hide a Deadly Murder Weapon in an Antique China Doll
  • He Who Smelt it Dealt DEATH!!!
  • The Explosive Expert's Irreconcilable Grudge


dear brainfixer,
very tired now. attended the final show in yo la tengo's 8 Days of Hannukkah extravaganza in hoboken. the venue - maxwell's club - seemed so appropriate because it's the band's original hometown club. maxwell's made yo la semi-famous and yo la made maxwell's slightly more famous in return. combine the sweet homecoming with the last evening of a jewish holiday, a charity benefit, a band with a sense of humor and a jewish leader and a repertoire of consistently interesting cover songs, and something good is bound to happen.

each show had a different opening act and, after i wept openly when i discovered that yung wu had opened for them on another evening, i settled into the evening's opener. annie hayden is a member of NRBQ (one of those "good" bands that i've always been allergic to, not unlike morphine and pere ubu). she was fine and melodic. good waiting room music.

then, since yo la tengo has this real affinity for comedy, they invited a comic to perform before they plugged in. (i've seen them in the audience at comedy shows in nyc several times, and they even wrote an original theme song for a local comedian friend's one-man show. oh yes, and then there's that great video for sugarcube with bob odenkirk and dave cross.) other nights' performers included janeane garafalo (i hope she starts writing jokes again soon. i miss them.) and the upright citizens brigade. tonight we got david cross, for which i was very grateful. he's just a really smart individual and, even without any formal material prepared, he was 99% there. at one point someone shouted out a question about the unreleased mr. show movie and david explained to the rest of the audience that the film - Run Ronnie, Run - is a "humorous take on the history of diarrhea." i hope he's right.

finally, around 11pm, yo la tengo shuffled onstage and twiddled and shook like leaves, then knitted a really long and pretty instrumental. i must admit that, while the song was very beautiful, i groaned inside a bit because i just didn't have the patience for that kind of concert last night. after finishing up the song and receiving soft, but encouraging applause from the audience (the kind of applause that said "we love you, but we also think we get you and perhaps raucous applause would be a bit boorish right now." too bad.) they introduced the evening's special sit-in guest and all my concerns about an esoteric fuzz-fest were exploded like a black cat m80.

let me just say this about jon spencer: he's one of three men, living and dead, whom i would forgive if he stole my lady. it just doesn't make sense to fret about it. he's jon spencer - this lean, greased rock and roll snake with a mechanical pelvis and good looks that have somehow remained unplundered by drugs and alcohol. losing your woman to jon spencer is basically just an act of god; beyond your control. jon spencer stepping into the middle of this particular yo la tengo set was equivalent to showing up at a tea party and slapping a 12-inch semi-engorged cock on the tea caddy. one force is a far more powerful toxin than the other. his presence is always like one of those 80s comedies where the cool guy storms the wedding band, demands "something with a swinging beat" and then proceeds to have the whole band and wedding party rocking ass-out to "the girl can't help it" or some other swampy voodoo rocker.

and so it was. jon plugged in, teased his guitar to orgasm for a second, and the whole new group charged into a full hour of sexy rock and roll. jon spencer sang the stones' "rip this joint" and the band covered a ton of garage rock i couldn't identify. i pieced out the seeds' "can't seem to make you mine" and pussy galore's "you look like a jew" (though i wouldn't have been able to identify that had it not been introduced by the band) and t.rex's "20th century boy" and one or two others but the rest were a blur of garage rock and abandon. sweat flew around like chicken grease, and a nice time was had.

dear brainfixer,
i would like to give a special shout-out to all of my ex-girlfriends, the publisher's clearinghouse and rabbi silverman (who overlooked my peanut butter and tuna fish humentashen when handing out his prize for "most original" humentashen in 1980). i just wanted to let you all know you were wrong about me. as my fortune cookie fortune stated so obviously this evening, "everyone agrees i am the best." step left, jerks.

dear brainfixer,
when i checked my home voicemail this afternoon i heard a message that, while at first noisy and unintellible, eventually revealed itself to be someone placing their phone receiver next to a loud recording of "the superbowl shuffle". i thought to myself, "i'm thankful for my many friendships."

then, when i checked my cell phone voicemail a few minutes later and found another message containing the remainder of "the superbowl shuffle" i thought to myself, "i'm thankful for my friendship with my optometrist."

dear brainfixer,
hip-hop vernacular has always amazed me. the language is as fluid, as inventive as a james joyce novel. (and with twice the number of swears!) the quickest way to sound like an asshole, in fact, is to misuse or correctly use culturally expired slang on a regular basis. and this is a hard kind of asshole to avoid becoming, because the language mutates at an alarming rate. case in point: raekwon. the wutang chef is nearly genius in his ability to cook up new language and then drop it into his songs as if it's always been part of english language.

however, sometimes this need to pioneer reaches too far. (think of leaders like jay-z, who created "jigga" which was then turned into "jiggy" first by will smith and then by every television comedy writer who wanted to make a square character sound like he was trying to be 'down' but ultimately failing. the exercise, to me, really said more about the failure of the writers but maybe my opinion was part of an insignificant minority.) and sometimes the vernacular takes an embarrassing detour which leaves it lost forever, never to be repeated. wutang members collectively gave the world a lot of excellent slang, like 'cream', ' john blaze' and 'snotbox' (unless even these expressions were swiped from elsewhere). however, on the intro track for the new ghostface killa album, Bulletproof Wallets, raekwon left me completely puzzled with his loud threat: "NIGGAZ GONE FUCK AROUND AND GET THEY BALLOONS POPPED!!!"

i know what he means - balloons = heads and popped = injected with a bullet or other head-piercing tool. but balloons? even melons or caps are more visceral, less juvenile, metaphors. is raekwon threatening to actually pop the real balloons of niggaz who enjoy fucking around? are balloons a cool accessory now, as i once predicted they'd be? and is popping them really the nastiest thing you can imagine doing? i feel like if you wish to remedy the fucking around of niggaz all up in your area, making them walk home with a limp-ass balloon dragging from their wrists and a snotbox filled with salty tears and thick mucous simply isn't punishment enough. and if it is, then i welcome the new movement of civil revenge being ushered into hip-hop by raekwon. either way, stay away from circuses, carnivals and birthday parties for babies.

dear brainfixer,
i hope someone gives jim carrey an academy award, and quick. i really do. i don't think i can sit through another sincere sound bite from him. here's the thing: it doesn't have to be a real oscar. you can probably set up a crazy, fake academy awards ceremony in a high school gymnasium. just decorate the walls with gold-foil wallpaper and fill the space with folding chairs. then you can populate the seats with cardboard cut-outs of real celebrities or cabbage patch kids, and play the soundtrack to the 1978 academy awards over the PA system. the minimal illusory effect will probably be enough to trigger carrey's needy subconscious. i imagine he'd sit with his date (a bag of potatoes with a pretty face painted on it, and topped with a blonde wig) in eager anticipation. he'd call out "hey jack!" to a cardboard cut-out of jack nicholson in his joker makeup and costume. "where did you get those wonderful seats??? ha ha ha. just kidding! you look great. you're front row all the way."

when his moment comes, a homeless man would announce the nominees for Greatest Dramatic Actor of All Time: marlon brando, sir laurence olivier, alfred lunt, jim carrey, and dame judi dench. jim would win, of course. piped in applause would follow jim on his way to the stage, where he'd be presented with a giant nestle's crunch bar. he could even make his speech as the custodians replace the folding chairs and sweep the gymnasium floor. he'd never notice. he just needs it that badly.

after the evening's over, his therapist would be on-hand to embrace him for this newest "breakthrough" and maybe, if we're all lucky, he'll start talking out of his asshole again.

dear brainfixer,
i was thinking this morning of all the lines i've crossed as an adult. not dangerous or deviant lines. (though i guess i've crossed some of those, too. when i consider how totally generic my sense of fantasy was as a teenager, i'm really surprised and a little bit depressed over what i've become. back then it was easy - i just had to imagine a woman crawling on top of me, or even crawling on top of anyone, and i was fine. now i'm just a mess of rules and specifications involving difficult to purchase medical devices and specialty market foods and women with third degree black belts and such. it's storyboarded with the precision of a hitchcock film and all of the planning and teamsters and craft services and permits are set up solely to produce the same result i could have produced 15 years ago with just five minutes of privacy, a photograph of samantha fox, and a piece of room temperature veal. i liked it better when i was an indie-masturbator.) no, rather than those dark and interesting lines that turn a good cop bad, the lines i've been crossing lately have been of a much more troubling variety. i'm talking about lines of nerdiness.

i wouldn't say i was supercool as a younger me. i was funny and socially adept, but i was still nerdy. i was, i think, a special sub-phylum of nerd: the comedy nerd. it's different - i swear. if i had time to explain, i would. but i'm talking about full-blown nerd power to the nth degree.

there are places i tread comfortably now that i would have considered a serious act of trespassing when i was younger. for example - computers. i regarded computers with the same disdain with which women generally regarded me. in fact, i spent four years as an english major in college (and two years as a writer and editor for my campus paper) writing countless papers and articles and stories and angry consumer letters without the benefit (or want) of a computer. i had a reputation for submitting the most heavily marked-up papers in my program. they were messes of white-out (when available) or ballpoint cross-outs, sometimes with full paragraphs added in the margins, called out by long, twisting arrows pointing to an insertion point somewhere within the paper. i would make edits on my way to class - sometimes even on my way to the front of the classroom where we would all deposit our papers for review. i believed computers were mind-stealing devices. because they lacked hearts or a sense of asthetics, they didn't value your written word and would crash and delete your mid-term paper without a care. it made no difference if your text was the product of three months of research or three minutes of transcribing a recipe for hermit cookies. computers didn't care, so how could i care about them?

now i'm all on it. i love my computer. it makes me smarter (i.e. lazier). i can talk about computers at length, if need be. i still don't entirely understand how they work but i know all the buzzwords and can recite them, if asked, the way a serious car owner can walk nose to tail and point out all the specifications of his vehicle along the way. i don't LIKE talking about my computer but i like using it. and other people like talking about it because it's sort of one of those sexy-looking-motherfuckers. when i get cornered by someone who wants to molest my computer or (literally) congratulate me on my purchase i still feel uneasy. i used to think this uneasy feeling came from being approached by uber-nerds but recently i realized the feeling came from a deep, out-of-touch understanding that we are kindred spirits, but i haven't embraced my birthright yet. maybe they've gone too far, but i'm still young. give me a couple years.

the other nerd-lines i've transgressed as an adult include: independent comic books, hong kong cinema (this began in college, with an article i read about john woo in film comment, and i never looked back); video games (didn't care for them so much when i was younger. can't play them for shit now but that hasn't stopped me from caring just a little bit too much.); cult tv; electronic gadgetry (the sight of my universal remote has made women rebutton their blouses in my presence); ain't it cool news; and, of course, the ultimate secret-nerd-heartthrob gesture second only to joining the society for creative anachronism - online journaling.

in fact, it seems there are only a few lines i haven't crossed yet, including but not limited to:

  • typing or (worse yet) muttering the word "huzzah!"
  • conspiracy theory
  • proactively listening to, collecting, and creating mix tapes that include parody songs
  • the twin bards of the land of nerdvonia: jrr tolkien and william gibson
  • h.r. giger desktop wallpaper
  • dragonballZ
  • geocaching
  • collectible figurines (yes, the Simpsons count)
  • ascii porn
  • binary jokes
  • robotics
  • shoes with sweat socks and without feeling self-conscious about it
  • the use of excessive pop culture sound bites in place of real conversation
  • diaper fetishes (oh come on! you know it's true!)

i am trying to preserve my dignity and plan to stay on the right side of the fence regarding these matters. and i won't tell you which items on the list actually sort of appeal to me right now. let's just say i'm in grave danger.

dear brainfixer,
i did a reading this evening, in new york city. sometimes i'm very relaxed and comfortable with the material i'm presenting, and i have a great time onstage and off. other times are like tonight.

dear brainfixer,
the 2G1 has been a tough year, almost universally. if you're looking for a last-minute improvement on some of the difficulties over which we had no control in the last 11+ months, i suggest applying the following formula (in this order):

  • slice of toasted white bread
  • mayonnaise
  • deli-sliced turkey breast
  • 2 thin slices of ripe avocado
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • a bit more mayonnaise spread on a second slice of toasted white bread

this sandwich is so good you won't miss things like potato chips and st. john's wort, and that high-paying new media job from which you were downsized six months ago. trust me. i'm calling this sandwich the "Better Luck Next Year".

dear brainfixer,
i run into people a lot. not in the nice way, either. i don't have a lot of those "small world" experiences; i just run into people a lot. today i ran into a woman and almost knocked her unconscious.

i think i spend a lot of time in a different state of consciousness. my body knows what to do - it moves me across the floor, through doorways, and instinctively back to my apartment or prison cell. but my brain has a habit of detaching, taking care of other pieces of business. when i was a teenager, i wrecked two automobiles before i learned how to give the act of driving my (mostly) undivided attention.

today, as i was leaving an employee bathroom i was working on a theory: could a cat beat up an orangutan? i had a dream in which an orangutan gave my cat a pretty decent thrashing but i'm still pretty sure that in reality they lack the viciousness required to fight a cat. i think an orangutan could beat my cat in hockey. also, trivia. i realize an orangutan doesn't have the logic or memory required to excel in trivia but, in a multiple choice situation it could probably, through pure accident, hit some right answers once in a while. a cat, however - SMASH!!

i apologized to this woman as profusely as i could, and helped her up off the ground. i even let her wipe her bloody nose on the magazine i was holding. and the whole time i resisted my great urge to remind her that she'd completely derailed my train of thought. i guess we we're even.

dear brainfixer,
i received a spam today, courtesy of dvdexpress. i thought it was really kind of them to clue me in on the dvd release of Pearl Harbor. how did i miss this little arthouse film? seems a crime. let's hope the academy didn't miss it, too!

i normally scan these emails for a millisecond or just delete them outright but today i accidentally opened the dvdexpress spam and discovered this header graphic. see if you find it weird. look at it for just a second. then go back and stare at it longer. now let me explain.

i, like all hot-blooded americans with some kind of buying power, get spams like this a lot. emails clogged with html bits. giant graphics. shitty type faces. loud, obnoxious promotions that include so many elements competing for your attention that the actual offer slowly recedes somewhere deep within the ad, where it remains lost forever. this header graphic is part of that. ordinarily i wouldn't pay any attention.

but take it out of context for a second and spend time with it. its insanity starts to bubble to surface. look at how many disparate elements of hollywood are just sandwiched together without logic. the lovers from Moulin Rouge dancing beneath the floating poster-head of kate hudson. and what about that dinosaur? what the hell is he doing there, caught between jackie chan and alex winter? it actually looks like he was invited to some kind of after-party at a planet hollywood opening and just sort of blended in.

the whole process of blending in is what i found so jarring about this ad. it's as if it's screaming "HOLLYWOOD!!!!!" and then shrugging its shoulders, not sure what it really meant.

i was trying to figure out what this image reminded me of, and then it came to me: chinatown souvenir shops. it has the same kind of irrational intent you see in those independently-owned storefronts that fight-like-blood to grab your attention as you stroll along canal street. they are less interested in creating a niche as they are in just assaulting you with every possible option, hoping one of them will hook you. the storefronts or sidewalk displays are crowded with knock-offs of power puff girl plushies next to bootleg dvd copies of Bounce next to calculators and watches and wind-up cars and glow-in-the-dark antennae and live turtles and throwing stars. there isn't an organizing principle - it's all just a giant, fevered exclamation: HERE COMES AMERICA!!!

dear brainfixer,
here's an early advisory for the holiday season. if you were planning on making a kwaanza joke, please don't. they've all been told already. don't pretend you celebrate kwaanza when you don't. don't send your friends an "unintentionally funny" kwaanza greetings card for the holidays. don't start insisting that you celebrate kwaanza when you don't receive the desired response at first mention. please, just don't. save us all the trouble. whenever you have the urge to make a kwaanza joke, or something compels you to even say the word "kwaanza" with deliberate and exaggerated inflection in your voice, stop yourself because you're just spinning your wheels.

if you need to do something with all your unspent hilarious energy, why don't you just rent Chasing Amy for the 300th time? are we cool?

dear brainfixer,
i am still in the good graces of the editorial board at New Times Los Angeles and this week they saw fit to publish my review of the new De La Soul album, Bionix.

On a related note, all of the music writers for this paper were asked to submit their top ten albums for 2001. i've never had to do this before - well, not officially at least - and it was a nearly impossible task. i finally settled on listing the digitally remastered original motion picture soundtrack to Conan the Destroyer ten times, adding "so sayeth togra, keeper of the seventh castle" or "thus spake zula, warrior-savage" for variety. you'll understand why this album beat out other contender like michael winslow's vocal sfx reproduction of OK Computer as soon as you check out Basil Poledouris' stirring work on "The Horn Of Dagoth". that track might not have any real horns on it, but that dagoth sure as shit did. (also notable is the final track on the album, just for the image it conjures: "Conan Battles Bambaata". after looking at both their images i realized they're really not so different after all.)

dear brainfixer,
i had a disquieting experience last night: i was cruised. (ha. i just read that back and it sounds like one of those openers from a fray story.) let me preface my soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture cruising story with this disclaimer: i have never been cruised before, by men or women; i was also not out to meet new people nor was i aiming to get cruised, especially by a table of six gay men. (and that sounds like an opener from a letter to Gay Penthouse Forum. i can't win.)

i was out with randy, a fine friend and former roommate who'd just returned to nyc from four years of residence in not-so-swinging london. we attended a small but satisfying concert performed by country-crooning amy allison, daughter of jazz artist mose allison, unlikely subject of this song. miss allison has the heart of a trucker and the voice of jennifer tilly at her helium-goofiest and once she starts singing sentiment and sonics still manage to come together very nicely.

after the show we were looking for a follow-up drink. i suggested my friend's bar, which was right in the neighborhood and i thought randy might appreciate its expensive sense of novelty. the bar is tricked out with monitors and cameras and consoles that enable you to switch channels and stare directly at anyone else in the bar, while remaining only slightly aware that others are also staring at you. the tone is somewhere between a social scene and drunk bird-watching. it's fun for a while and, like a documentary film crew who has been following you around for a year, surprisingly easy to ignore.

the bar was conversationally quiet, though generic electronic music covered every bit of negative space with its giant, lapping european tongue. as we moved toward the back of the bar and away from the dj and the noise and the extra layer of television screens, i noticed something: this bar was filled with boys. not "boys" in the goatee and baseball hat and kevin smith fan club new york chapter membership card sense. nor do i mean boys in the slingshot in pocket and ant-burning and soap box racer sense either. i mean boys in the gayest possible sense of the word. that kind of boys. had randy and i stumbled into some gay-themed party and gone unscrutinized? and if so, why? were we gayed out? or were we just together? (is this why straight-insistent guys sit one seat apart on movie dates? or are they just leaving themselves extra room for fully extended manual genital manipulation? [ p.s. now i'm hoping i receive a link to my site from someone's google search for "manual genital manipulation." then i'll know i've made it.] )

i gave randy a tutorial in the bar's technology and then, after about two minutes of goofing around with it, we left it alone and talked - which is what friends do. suddenly our console came to life, to tell us that table 5 wants to say hello and would we like to say hello back? no. five seconds pass. another message from table 5. denied again, more out of indifference than rudeness. table 5 would not relent, however. invitation after invitation flowed in from table 5 - mixed with a bit of competition from table 17. finally, randy figured out a way to view table 5. here are some of the gentlemen in attendance: one, two, three.

finally, after more technology-puttering, randy was able to see where table 5 had their camera pointed. upon finding the right channel i discovered i was staring into our monitor, right at an image of me. alone. it was like being seated in front of a mirror that gave off a reflection others could see. and it was totally uncomfortable. how is one supposed to relax when confronted with that? i think narcissus fell into the water and drowned not because of extreme vanity but as an act of suicide resulting from staggering self-consciousness.

my solution was more simple than his: i placed my hat over our camera. blackout. three minutes later a representative from table 5 approached us and said, "hi. i just need to do something for a minute." then he removed the hat and returned to table 5. eventually, he even came over to chat, to have his picture taken on our camera, and to recommend the club he and the other members of table 5 were heading to later that evening. (the club was called "beige" and he said the name in the same nonchalant way one rabid sports fan would turn to another and say "i also suck at sports".)

at one point i came right out and asked andy (for that was his name) if this was some kind of gay night. he feigned shock and said, "what do you mean? we're all straight." it was perhaps the best of all possible things to say.

after leaving the bar and feeling much more uncomfortable than flattered (poor randy took all the attention i received personally which, in all my smallness, is exactly what i would have done had the roles been reversed. ) i grabbed a cab home and thought about the evening. i thought about how gay men are usually very forthright and funny and even funnier when traveling in packs. i thought about how much easier it is to break the conversational ice with a man than it is with a woman sometimes. i thought about how gay men allow you to say pretty much anything on your mind, and do anything on your mind without any real subtext. and i thought about all the great women i've met, dated, and disappointed. and i then thought and thought and thought about it all and started to see myself telling my friends and family that, after all my failed attempts at heterosexual happiness i'd finally figured it all out: i'm gay. (then, briefly, i pictured my friends all exchanging money because they'd secretly had a 'coming-out' pool behind my back.) i seriously put all of these thoughts together and i was a bit shaken, honestly. then i thought about Balls.

and in that instant, as the idea of "balls" skipped across my mind, the whole elaborate scenario i'd played out - the nights dancing, the pride march, the loud, drunk cattiness i'd planned on enjoying - went flaccid and then dried up and turned to dust, only to be blown away by a gentle, gay breeze.

dear brainfixer,
fellas - allow me to let you in on a sweet secret. tonight i discovered something even better than sex: half-price sex.

spread the word!

dear brainfixer,
as members of the TREMBLE 2000 mailing list already know, earlier this year i began enforcing a controversial new policy for this web site: no skeezers. not surprisingly, this decision was met with a great deal of resistance, particularly from some of my more skeezy readers. backlash in the form of angry emails began flooding my inbox within the first 24 hours of the methodical skeezer-proofing of the most affecting of these letters (later published on tremble, as a gesture of 'equal-time' fairness for skeezer-supporters) came from miss jean lewinson of angleville, missouri.

miss lewinson, a middle-aged single-mother working as a machinist in a plastic frog factory, implored me to change my policy, insisting that were it not for the love of a skeezer she would have no love in her heart at all. miss lewinson went on the explain that her beautiful daughter, melinda, was diagnosed with skeezer-culosis in 1999 (the result of complications stemming from a terminal case of hype-nitis contracted one year prior from the disappointing sales of her heavily promoted debut rap album, Who U Callin Bitch, Bitch?: The Jump-Off, Vol. 1 - In The Beginning.) and the two of them have had to live through this terrible condition together ever since. because many physicians refuse to treat skeezers, the lewinsons have had to make do with a home treatment of love and sour apple jolly rancher sour stix. the most moving thing about the letter was the enclosure: an izone polaroid photograph of melinda in the protective suit she must now wear, playing NBA JAMZ on her sega genesis. she was the cutest little skeezer i had ever seen.

anyhow, i've decided against lifting my no skeezers policy. i can't help it. i just don't like skeezers. i would also like to announce that, because of recent events in new york city and jersusalem, i'm extending my policy to include "crumbsnatchers" and "shysty bitchaz." apologies to anyone affected by these restrictions but please understand: these are difficult times we live in. so please, if you are a skeezer, crumbsnatcher, shysty bitch, or suspect you might be excessively flossy, please go somewhere else. i'm sure someone like jason kottke or someone would appreciate your readership. in all honesty, i would not.

dear brainfixer,
as a free gift, i've added a piece to the "about" section of this site. i forgot i'd written 80% of it before i redesigned tremble and it's been fallow ever since...UNTIL NOW! i don't really know how to properly describe it except to say it's something of a personal timeline charting my own human frailties by way of hollow cultural references. what could possibly make a better read than that?

dear brainfixer,
as i grow older i'm making the kind of practical composition mistakes i used to fault others for in my own private, pedantic ways. i'm seeing words differently and my brain occasionally substitutes one like-sounding word for another. it's not a spelling problem; it's more of a writing problem. i used to think it wasn't a writing problem either but, rather, a typing problem. i was convinced that if i were to return to long-hand writing the problem would correct itself. now i realize the person who drew up that plan was kind of nutsy.

the most common mistake i've noticed is my interchangeable usage of "right" and "write". i know the difference between the two. i can, if i put my mind to it and sound them out slowly, even spell them both correctly. nonetheless, when i want to use one sometimes my brain decides the other one will do just as well. it's strange. is this a form of dyslexia, i wonder.

other times i'll simply read a word incorrectly. my eye will scan it and decide it's something different than what was written for all the world to see. this results in a serious and out-loud case of the crazies because i'll get very uptight about the supposed "mistake". i'll carry on and on, saying things like "what the fuck is that supposed to mean? PUBIC TELEPHONE?! who's the joker here? well, i'm not touching the thing - and that's fo'shizzel. pubic telephone my foot!" then someone will correct me - usually a baby.

today my brain disorder provided something really positive. thanks to a trip to the coffee shop and a total neurological misfire i stumbled upon an excellent name for a scrappy punk band: SMALL DOOMED LIDS. "bro - did you hear the new SDL cassingle? its grate!"

dear brainfixer,
many online enthusiasts with stories in their hearts - stories about being online enthisiasts, mainly - spent the 30 long, rich days of november to push out their first beautiful novel in celebration of national novel writing month. the novels, ripe with transcripts of AOL Instant Messenger conversations and enough pop cultural references to make you want to eat Middlemarch page by page to get the plasticine taste out of your mouth, will be the stepping-stones to book deals, movie tie-ins, head shots, and lengthy online journal entries. for now we will all have to sit and wait to see who has written the next The Corrections or something else even more captivating.

i chose to spend my november differently. each day began at the crack of noon and consisted of long crying jags, followed by an afternoon nap. i would then wake up in time for dinner - macaroni and rum (or, as i liked to call it, "rum and macaroni!"). after three large helpings i often lacked the energy to masturbate, so i would just read Aquaman comic books or check my email (there wasn't any) until my body stopped moving. come to think of it, THAT would make a great book. (i'd call it Mr. Sour Grapes because if i didn't, everyone else would.)

the time off was really envigorating but it's nice to be back online again. there's much to be done. (SFX: my head hitting the keyboard followed by loud snoring)


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2001 todd levin