Friday, December 31, 2010

We're Just Two Old Souls Swimming In A Fish Bowl Year After Year

There's something uniquely satisfying about having the first song of the day be an extremely angry chick-power song. I don't care that I have no reason to identify with it, I choose to be empowered. I've drunk from the Kool-Aid for so many years; I might as well reap the rewards of Poe furiously condemning men's narrow conception of women's place, capabilities, and potential. Rock on, angry feminists, I'll pretend I have a real reason to be this vindictive and righteously outraged if your music meets me halfway.

So, I've been working on this blog for the last couple days, but haven't posted. Why, you ask? Does it have anything to do with a desire to put out a truly polished, well formatted and intricate posting? Sorry, wish I was that interested in your reading experience being pleasant. It has everything to do with the fact that so far this year I've written 19 posts, and that's a prime number and therefore awesome. Even numbers are to be avoided at all costs. Odd numbers are cool, but prime numbers? Shoot dang, that's the prize. But I've been pulling these nine hour (odd number!) days at work, and the stir craziness has been too much to bear--blog I must. I considered postponing the posting of said post (oooh, that was fun) until the New Year, therefore preserving my darling 19. But as soon as I had entertained that thought, I felt cheap. I knew I no longer deserved 19 posts with such cheating heart tactics as that. However, I comfort myself that this will be my 39th post ever (odd number!) and when you divide 39 by the 3 years I've kept up this blog is equals 13--not too shabby, I'm only two degrees from a prime number! That's like barely off-beach property. Quality stuff.

Shit. I just took the precaution of recounting my posts and this will only be the 38th. Epic fail. I really don't know if I can handle the reality that I've annually posted even numbers of posts. And then I couldn't even count it right. Sigh. I've already walked myself through the whole accept-your-numbered-fate; it's far too late now to rejustify my actions.

And yes, I do realize that I just gave a terrifying peek into how my brain relates things that may leave some of you scarred for entire minutes of your life. Shrug. Peoples is peoples.

Here's a serious question: Did Keith Richards and Mick Jagger get what they wanted, or what they needed? I'm almost a little terrified to find out the answer to that either way, but the query intrigues me.

So I sell my plasma for extra cash. It leads to lots of killer prostituting-myself jokes and is a great way to stretch from one paycheck to another. But my absolute favorite part of my twice-weekly visit to the plasma center is that I have a large and fervent following amongst the male phlebotomists.

I'm not delusional, I don't mistake their excitement at seeing me and quick tussle to get my chart first as the final indicator that I have Arrived as the hawtest piece on the market. I understand that this level of devotion to me has a lot to do with the fact that the majority of plasma donors are men, and the few others who are women tend to look a little more . . . how shall I put this . . . "rode hard and put away wet" than I do. But hey, supply and demand being what it is I'm willing to supply my fresh-faced smile in exchange for some of shallow fawning my ego demands.

Unfortunately, there is one aspect of the plasma donating process that ruins this illusion of hyperactive flirtation every time. The last step of screening, before the organization graciously agrees to stick a hollow needle in my arm for an hour and suck out my lifesource, is a routine battery of questions between me and one of the phlebotomists. These questions include "Have you ever had sex with a man who has had sex with another man, even one time, since 1977?" "Do you have hepatitis or have been in close contact with someone else who has hepatitis?" "Do you participate in high-risk behaviors like prostitution, recreational drugs, or needle sharing?" and, my very favorite question, because it always always includes a flickering glance at my stomach after I answer in the negative: "Have you been pregnant in the last six months?" Yeah, I dunno, maybe I'm just awfully sensitive, but being interrogated concerning your potentially criminal and wild sex life by someone you were shamelessly flirting with two minutes ago is a pretty big buzz kill. I just thought my meaningless flirting with people whose last names I don't know would be a little more . . . special.

I think I find the name Brock to be offensive to my soul. Either that or I really like it, without a tangible reason why. I can't decide--all I know is that I have a visceral response to the name Brock, and I'm beginning to doubt it can be entirely blamed on the Treetop-apple-juice-toting lactose-intolerant boy in my second grade class who everyone called Brockoli. So if I end up having a kid and naming him Brock Cobain, don't look too surprised. I may have to name a kid Brock just so that I can objectively figure out if I hate the name or not. Just sorta sucks for him if I come down on the side of hating.

I read Steve Almond's Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life last week. It was a lovely little read, except for the fact that I kept on having the thought "Wow, so I have really never had an original thought on my blog. This guy says everything I've ever touched on, and with infinitely fewer apologies or run-on sentences."  But aside from my own insecurities, the book was great. Its main focus was delineating, defending, and demarcating what it means to be a 'Drooling Fanatic' of music. Not a rock star, just the people who are obsessed with said rock stars. I certainly am firmly entrenched in that sad little hole in the world.

So, of course, while reading this book I about how Drooling Fanatics are the wannabe parasites of the music world I frequently escaped reality by envisioning what kind of rock star I would be if I somehow got in a horrible accident that shredded my vocal chords to a pleasing growl while simultaneously giving me that brush of death necessary to get over my paralyzing primness while performing.

I quickly discarded that I would be an Epic rock star, let alone of the Timeless variety. I love Janis and Joan and Freddie way too much to consider myself worthy of the pantheon. Instead, I determined that I would be a rocker like The J. Gells Band or K's Choice who talk about finding their homeroom crush in the centerfold of Playboy or how people need to get off their backs for smoking. I'd glory in the mundane, find some humor in a daily encounter, all while getting to wear all the outfit combinations Becca won't let me wear in the real world and shredding the air guitar (the idea that I could ever actually become skilled on the real guitar is even further off in dream world than me being a rock star).

Maybe after years of perfecting my observational humor lyric-writing Grandness I could hook up with a genuinely imaginative mind and we could write something in the grey outer edges of the magnificent world of songs like The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." That, indeed, would be the peak of life achievement for any red-blooded American.

But sadly, I think if I ever went down that road I would, as has so often happened to me before, get bogged down in the minutiae. I'd try to write a song about eating in a restaurant alone and watching strangers or how people need to back off my soda addiction and would end up writing a whole stanza about the napkin that looked like a mutated platypus and the song would get away from me. The loyal fans would try to finds the deeper significance of me devoting half an album to metallurgy, but in the end would just have to conclude that I'm someone who really likes shiny things. Ah, such is the fleeting mistress we potential failures call Fame.

How much street/life cred would I lose if I admitted my discovery that Timbuktu and Kathmandu were real places in the world wasembarrassingly recent? For some reason I had some elaborately designed explanation for how those names were just nonsense words from Lewis Carroll's writings that denoted exotic locales. I don't know why I didn't take it a step further and decided Jabberwocky was really the name of a charming suburb nestled in the Swiss mountains, but my brain continues to elude even me.

Ultimate Spinach Rules.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Not Sick But I'm Not Well

I just spent seventy minutes writing feverishly about the rise of secularist subject matter in Germanic art, and what do I feel like doing? Writing more. Cause, you know, the fun. Actually, I consider it of anthropological interest to document my state of non-mind immediately post my final final.

Warning, this post is going to be scattered with lyrics, both with or without context. Specimen one, from the immortal and underrated Harvey Danger: "A shooting star is a little piece of cosmic debris desperately wanting to fall to earth. It doesn't get too far, it's not a real star, it's hardly even worth footnotes in your memoir . . . it's just a surrogate connection, leaving you all alone." I'm just saying, that's fairly impressive wordology for guys whose big hit was "Flagpole Sitta." But they were in Seattle in the 90s, and therefore they are gods. Right? Right.

My work installed a new Big-Brother soul-crushing fun-sucking anal-retentive internet filter. The end result, other than my general misery: no Pandora for Mary. It's pretty horrific. To compensate for the lack of bass beat to accompany my always rhythmic mad 10-key skillz, I've had to dig up my massive stack of mixed cds that are cryptically worded with phrases like "Sweet n Low" and "Why Not?" It's quite the adventure, sticking in a cd with less than the slightest hint of an idea as to its theme or content.

There have been some delightful side effects to this state of affairs. For instance, I have rediscovered a) I know all the words to Savage Garden's "I Want You," and therefore b) I am just the awesomest. That was sooo worth the better half of a semester three years ago when Alyssa and I methodically mastered each verse with brief bursts of enthusiasm every time we got to say "chic-a-cherry-cola."

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to Mary nine-point-seven (there are many, many versions of Mary, I'm thinking I"ll need to break it into Eon, Era, and Epoch soon) for glorying in the poetic grandness of the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Rock these lyrics:
"It took 6 whole hours
And 5 long days
4 all your lies to come undone.
And those 3 small words
Were way 2 late
Cause you can't see that I'm the 1."
Did you see what they did there, with the numbers and the word play? Bloody Shakespeare, that's what that is.

The crazy aspect that keeps me up at night concerning how much I loved/shamefully still love things like Josie and the Pussycat is not my possibly terrible taste, but rather how it pulls into relief how trapped everybody is their immediate reality. I look back at Mary 9.7 and immediately become guilty of historian no-no numero uno: I apply my contemporary philosophies, morals, and expectations to my past self. Which means even though it was me doing all those stupid things, I still can't really tell you why it was that I was/am/will be such a mess. I'm in the best position to recall enough to sketch out a detailed outlined of my past actions, but I feel like I have no more of an upperhand in actually dissecting and predicting my own motivations than any stranger would.

It's like all the circular conversations in my International Organizations class. We discuss again and again the options for peacekeeping, sanctions, regional organizations, but when it comes right down to it we fail to come up with anything innovative or at least mildly better than this mess of an anarchic globe because we cannot fundamentally comprehend what it would be like to live in a world that was structured differently than what we got.

The occasional writer might get all Utopian on me, but I normally find that irritating. A current global political structure without the United States as unipolar power is too essential to our understanding of the underpinnings of our life for us to really "get" multilateralism or a balance of power set-up. Our parents couldn't conceive a world without the Soviets breathing down our necks, and now that we got it we don't know where the hell we're going to go next. It's like we keep on tripping into a new scenario where we pause, straighten, orient ourselves, and then promptly forget everything that had come before. This is the fragmentory, fleeting world we live in, and it's the state of my personal psyche as well.

But back to the important meaty issues. I'm pretty sure that the reason Poison is one of my top-all-charts best-studying/living/breathing/showering/make out-music ever is because it taps into my Inner Mullet. Everybody's got one of them inside--either an Inner Mullet, Inner Trailer Trash, Inner Hillbilly, they all correlate with a seriously mediocre genre of music that creates a bliss factor far beyond their own chord-progression power (I won't disclose what matches up with trailer trash and hillbilly, I don't wanna get in trouble).

But regardless of the causation, Poison is my happy place. And luckily, love-ily, it is now also irreconcilably linked in my brain with the road trip I took with my sister and her mess o' kids for the previously blogged and lauded Denver Trip Of King Tut Mind Melting Goodness. I think I'm just going to have to make Poison my life long culture-journey theme music. Which will totally discombobulate the minds of my future art history students when we go on summer trips to Europe. Ohh, I like this idea even more now. Almost as much as I like G. Love and Special Sauce. Man I should have been in my twenties in the nineties. The music was so much better, and the technology wasn't sophisticated enough to make me as paranoid as I now am. Stupid bunch of Android Cylons.

Oi!! Quick rant. I love me some Hieronymous Bosch. I really do, and it's not his fault that he's a product of his people's preconceptions and indoctrinations, but in "Garden of Earthly Delights" the Garden of Eden panel depicts the creation of Eve as being instantaneous--and in fact synonymous--with the creation of evil. Those kind of historic visual gems genuinely make me want to hurl my cookies across the room every time. It's been noted by wise people that the only type of content in films that I genuinely cannot sit through is the debasement, marginalization, and subjugation of women by men, especially when those men are supposed to be their partners, lovers, and sympathizers. I get so tense it takes me days to wind down just thinking about it.

But when I do need to wind down, this is what I listen to:

I don't wanna be a rusty suit of armor
Or a tumbledown forgotten castle in your mind
I just wanna be a twisted willow
So I can leave your shallow thinking far behind

I can feel the darkness in your shadows
And the melting of ice behind your troubled eyes
And the discoloration of all the words you're saying
As you're hunted without mercy by your lies

I've flown so high I'll never return
And I've been to the bottom of the dregs of your troubled soul
And I've basked in the sun of your revelations
But I guess you and I, we have different goals

So go and slay your dragons in blind amusement
And topple imagination with a song
At the moon, it plays little mind games
So you'll wonder where all the stars have gone

You have spoken to me about nothing
And you've shown me fantasies in a crystal ball
And you've promised me the world for my asking
Don't you know that to me it means nothing at all?

Because I know you'll leave me a burned out matchbox of forgotten roses
Inside a get-well card I had to address by myself
But that's not what I need from another stranger
So I guess I better do things without your help

Ultimate Spinach, y'all. So glad something went right in Boston in the 60s.

I know, posting lyrics is lame, emo, and lazy. So sue. I just freaking schooled finals.

I just re-read this and it's possible a little bit of my essay/paper-writing vocab snuck in there. Profuse apologies.

Twelve hours later I re-read it again, and man there are some pretty interesting spots of grammar going on there. I'll preserve them as an homage to taking school seriously (it's a first!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Feeling Like You're Constantly on the Brink of Having a Heart Attack Has Its Perks

Quick background: My roommate Rosemary works as a reading tutor in a high school and also has a close relationship with one of the English teachers. This teacher decided today to have some fun and mock her in front of his rather large class, accusing her and our friend Joseph of having a secret passion for each other. I have a passing acquaintance with the teacher, so I decided to defend Rosemary's honor. I sent him an e-mail that reads as follows:

Master Rutter:

I am here to provide a ground-zero perspective/defense of the implied romantic entanglements of Rosemary Larkin and Joseph Moore.

But before I dive in, I can't allow your abuse of power to pass without a stern reprimand.

Presenting your version of the Rosemary-Joseph love affair to your students, in an environment where you as instructor wield significant credibility, is an argument style that is beneath your persuasive abilities. Also, the inclusion of teenagers in any accusation of affection is tantamount to whipping up a mob against evolutionary biologists at a Wednesday prayer meeting in the South. Even before this Twilight Generation, teens have had a long history of being constantly on the brink of hysteria, and they certainly don't need your muckraking to push them over the edge. Think of those poor, excitable kids, Rutter, and restrain your need to be validated in your wrongthinking.

And now to the meat of the issue: Joseph and Rosemary. Watching TV. K-I-S-S-I----No. Absolutely not. I've known Joseph since we were married in the fourth grade play, and I've alternately loathed from afar and lived with Rosemary since we were twelve. From that unique position of expertise, I can say--without a shred of doubt or wishful thinking--that Rosemary and Joseph have as much of a chance of getting together as I have a shot at the Heisman. This is not something to mourn over. My heart isn't broken over the lack of another shiny paperweight, and I can assure you that neither Rosemary or Joseph are nursing any melancholy wishes for "what-might-have-been."

How dare I speak with such authority concerning other people's inner feelings? Observation has provided me with enough information to consider my findings conclusive. After 15 months of witnessing the movie nights, soda runs, early morning rides to work and break-up talks, I can declare without any outlying data that Rosemay and Joseph have the combined chemistry and sexual tension of a mis-matched pair of oven mitts. The kind of oven mitts where one was crocheted for you by your senile great-aunt and is slowly devolving into a singed mass of unravelling yarn and the other is large, serviceable, but with shiny yellowed stains of questionable origin that make you relieved to take them off as soon as the tray has been removed from the oven.

Kindly take this into account before you choose to take another flight into the charming but unsubstantiated realm of Blind Man's Bluff Matchmaking. And don't beat yourself up too much over your mistake--it isn't entirely your fault. You simply must remember that you are severely handicapped as a Happily Married Man. Married Persons suffer from dating amnesia, meaning when they look at two people of a legal age they can't remember why that isn't enough to equal a couple. Also, as a Happily Married Man, you've had your best friend as a spouse for so long that you no longer recall that while you may have both in one person, correlation does not indicate causation.

Enjoy your day,

Mary Shurtz

I know. I'm hilarious. Really, I take my own breath away. He responded very quickly, and while the response was funny, it couldn't touch this masterpiece.

So, the moral of the story is: when your brain is being pulled in twelve directions at once, that is when you have the most potential to be the most creatively dynamic you've ever been. Yayyy masochism as a lifestyle.