In observance of the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place one year ago today, I am linking three things I wrote about it, in order of their publication, by which a narrative of subsequent events may be told.
Sometime last week I woke up at around 3:00 a.m., had profound realizations about Will Smith’s filmography, became obsessed, and could not go back to sleep until around 5:30 a.m. I slept for a paltry 1.5 hrs until I had to wake up for work, spent that entire day exhausted, nodding in and out of waking life in front of the computer while trying to gather my thoughts about what had kept me awake. My circadian rhythm had been disrupted, a tension which found deep residence in my lower back. Having somewhat recovered, I am now able to confront this issue. The majority of Will Smith’s films concern either the end of the world in contemporary time, or its problematic future, as follows: Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), Men in Black II (2002), I, Robot (2004), I am Legend (2007), Men in Black 3 (2012), and After Earth (2013); also, Wild Wild West (1999) and Hancock (2008), while not taking place at the end of the world or future, may be seen obliquely as science-fiction, given the former’s unworldly gadgetry and latter’s superhero powers. Writing this now, I can see how this is barely an epiphany, that such concerns are of standard Hollywood motif, that Will Smith is a fairly conventional actor, and the meeting of the two is nothing more. Yet, for some reason in bed that night, lying in a cold sweat, I had “blown my mind,” as one might feel on mushrooms, acid, or pot, like reality still consisted of its familiar atoms, but it was “I” — this notion, this incidental recipient of ephemeral consciousness — who was now between those atoms, in the sense that I saw things as they really were, from within, as opposed to from an angle. I was going to write an article about Will Smith’s futuristic filmography (my central thesis being that, unhappy in this life, despite his feigned smile and patronizing optimism, Will Smith could only find existential validation in the future) but realized I had nothing to say, except for what I just did. This has all been very disappointing, but I felt like it should at least live on a blog. May he read this in the future, for I am dust.
What follows is a haphazardness review of Nymphomaniac, which I was able to see in the course of two non-consecutive nights, as divided by its two volumes. I rented Volume I for $6.99 on iTunes and watched the first half while I ate dinner; then, I moved to another room and finished it on the floor while “flossing my nerve,” a technique a learned in physical therapy to alleviate my sciatica. This was the first time I ever purchased a rental in iTunes, but did so for three reasons: (1) I like Lars von Trier, and for the most part think he makes good, if not great, films; (2) I am receptive to the war between art and porn, and will always do my best to see both sides; (3) as a blogger and armchair critic at large, I see myself as having the obligation to watch controversial films in order to comment on them. It’s funny how Trier, who started Dogme 95, a manifesto in film making whose main component is not using special effects, has ended up using said effects to give verity to the pornographic scenes on which the film’s austerity may rely. He films unsimulated sex performed by porn actors, then uses digital compositing to apply the essential characters’ faces over the faces of the porn actors. One suspects Shia Labeouf’s shaft is not that thick. Volume I is worth it just to watch Christian Slater, who plays Joe’s dying father, “loosing it” in a hospital bed. It is unclear what he died of, but he shit the bed and the performance was such a horribly dramatic aimless tantrum, I wondered if it wasn’t genius veiled as ridiculous acting. Likely not. A few days later, left at the cliffhanger of Volume I at which Joe couldn’t feel sexual pleasure anymore, I knew it was time for black cock, so I went to my Comcast “On Demand” and demanded, for $9.99 of course, Volume II. In the scene I alluded to, two black men argue about which hole to use, though instead of their faces, the camera locks in on their unwaning boners. With utter and complete heterosexual resolve, I will say that I enjoyed looking at these two big boys. I suddenly wanted a pork tenderloin, seasoned Cajun style, but alas, I was on my couch in sweatpants. My favorite Lars von Trier film is Dancer in the Dark (2000), which was difficult to watch, viscerally, in its moral quandary. The camera, from whose unflinching and judgeless lens we inherit true responsibility, shows Selma confused and torn moments before she is hung. We are not instructed on how to feel. That is Trier’s true violence. Everything else is just art porn, porn, or whatever. Trier is essentially a neo-romantic who unfortunately thinks that all pathos is compelling. His lust for nature is him at his best, like the opening scene in the alley, the falling snow set in slow motion, with nothing around it, flurrying at something for its slowness to be measured by.
Because of the construction being done immediately above me at work, for the past two or three weeks, sudden seemingly random loud industrial pounces of grave density — whose emissions can be felt non-metaphorically in my very heart — have affected the psychological climate around me. Around every seven seconds, what sounds like a hand drill fastens screws into metal, causing (when the screw cannot be screwed in any more) this squeezy metallic fart noise which I find both aggravating and sort of funny — though this funniness is essentially masochistic, in the sense that the humor only works in its satire of life; namely, that I am, or at least perceive myself to be, in a kind of irksomely funny hell. To cope with the anxiety these fart noises make, not to mention “dry mouth” when my lymph nodes become inflamed, I imagine each girthy screw generously lubed with WD-40, whose spray, however imagined, forms into a nauseating cloud of fumes. In part with such sardonic humor, offered by a possibly spiteful God, I hold back a chuckle by gnawing on the inside of my cheek, now tender and bleeding. There is no difference between the taste of one’s blood and the taste of blood at large, and now I am somewhere between scared and hungry, maimed and violent. Since this is all in my head (besides the minor wound), I imagine the ongoing drill bit above me catching the construction worker’s beard and ripping off his chin, its skin flapping as a hypnotist’s pendant, red drops quickly populating the floor. I suddenly want to hear Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” which I do, headbanging a little too earnestly to its titular chorus, by which I may have strained a tendon in my neck. The iron in my blood is indeed irony, and I popped a blood vessel in my eye, each capillary grasping the eyeball with red little tendrils pushed forward by a frantic, tired, pulse.
My father’s dental insurance, under which I was covered, stoically saw my orthodontic needs as an elective, arguing that straight teeth was essentially cosmetic in nature. After a few bureaucratic forms of standard legal counsel, they resigned to paying a percentage of what would be a costly, and painfully long, corrective procedure on not only my teeth, but entire jawline. I had a notable overbite and disarrayed teeth; nothing of “freakish” nature, but definitely in the disquieting camp. After everything, the estimate bill was $4,500, over which my father visibly and verbally lamented, at times looking at me and sighing. He, like his employer’s dental insurance, considered the whole lot unnecessary. I could still chew, and wasn’t planning on being a model anyways. It was my mother, my sole advocate at the time, who forced my father to pay.
And so, for the next four years, every three weeks or so, my teen cranium found itself lodged between two enormous breasts—I can’t remember her name, and barely her face—a stately yet beautiful woman of Eastern European descent, my wonderful dentist. Lest one be concerned about some sexual harassment at bay, she only duly placed my head inside her breasts with professional reserve, using it (my head) as an anchor by which to prop herself up in order to gain leverage into my quivering mouth. Were it not for the extreme uncomfort, and the occasional gum laceration during distracted small talk, I may have fallen in love. In darkness, my neck gear pulling my sore maxilla deep towards me, a languid stream of drool finding its path down my neck, I often fell asleep between her tits in my mind. Nightmares became dreams, whose irrational plots faded to white when the alarm clock sung. I never liked mornings, it hurt to smile.
A few weeks ago, at the coffee cart where I get my coffee every morning, an elderly man in a wheelchair sat hunched over a pool of newly vomited milk. I presumed, as I still do, that he just had milk—or, possibly but unlikely, an au lait or latte, both French concoctions incorporating a lot of milk—as it was virginal white. There were a few chunks of residual breakfast, nothing to be stunned about. The elderly man looked like Irving Zisman, Johnny Knoxville’s old man character in Jackass, so for two seconds the possibility of being pranked inhabited me. A closer look established that it wasn’t Knoxville under a mask, but a depleted old man under the mask of skin, his skull scurrying from within towards the slit of death. An elderly woman tasked with driving the wheelchair, who shall herein be presumed to be his wife, looked both saddened, horrified, and irritated, if such a lifemask of competing feelings may exist. Now enter their dog, laxly leashed to one of the wheelchair’s handles, who knew in its canine intuition that something bad had happened, but simply could not resist abashedly lapping up the warm vomited milk splattered on the ground with Pollockian vigor. Art may indeed be the snapshot of pure abandon. This dog too looked sad, and so I was met, gladdened even, with six sad eyes, each set poking out the costume of being alive, bracing this earth, its spin so slow, sauntering shadows seem to never move. And so I moved for them, and walked away.
One quiet afternoon during the summer of ‘94, just a few months before I would leave for college, my father found a large pile of dog shit, slightly diarrhetic in form, on our lawn. We lived on the corner of a cul-de-sac and received a lot of foot traffic, which one could reasonably correlate with being consistently dog shitted on. I was in the backyard digging holes for plants, per my father’s fierce instruction, when I heard him scream sabotage! in his paranoia that these dog shits were intentional. Being “oriental” in an opulent white neighborhood, as irrational and small as this sounds, informed such intuitions of distorted perception. There was a part of me that wondered if we were indeed victims of a hate crime. My father asked me to come over and take the shit from his hands, which he had inexplicably picked up. It looked like Tikka Masala. I refused. He said I was just like my mother.
On January 28, 1994, Beastie Boys released “Sabotage,” the first single off their album Ill Communication. The video (an homage and/or parody of ’70s crime television) was directed by Spike Jonze, received a lot of air time on MTV, and partially conceived the ironic-douche brand. I doubt my father ever heard the song, so it is merely serendipitous that he chose that one word to convey all his complicated feelings that afternoon. Here, he said, still holding out the shit for me. I can’t stand it, I know you planned it, I mockingly replied, knowing he wouldn’t get the reference. You could say my father and I endure ill communication. You’re just like your mother, afraid to get your hands dirty. The conversation sort of tailed off, as I walked away to finish digging holes for saplings which are now enormous trees, their staunch roots dug deep in place of faith, as if holding on to anything.
In the past, whenever I was called an “asshole,” by exes or friends during their sincerest moments of non-rhetorical pity, I would silently disagree, with a kind of austere righteousness common in religious people. Today, at Safeway, I had a series of thoughts which made me realize that I have an asshole in me; that is to say, while I am not a “full blown” asshole at large, my personality suffers so. I was in the check-out line and noticed that the man in front of me had deformed hands. He took longer than usual in placing his items on the belt, and I found myself becoming very impatient. He was likely a veteran, and though I appreciate his contributing to our national well-being in a war in which he injured his hands, I simply wished that he existed elsewhere, in another line, that our fates had only intersected at my freedom. Behind me, a black woman was trying to contain her five kids (aged between 2 months and 14 years) with a verbal ebullience and decibel level common to her race. When I saw her holding food stamps, I sarcastically thought “fucking awesome,” imagining how nice it would be if the government paid for my food as well. “You’re welcome,” I thought, playing back years of income, property, and sales tax stripped from under me by a faggy socialist state. The eldest child, the 14-year-old, caught my gaze and lowered his eyes in embarrassment. I felt like an asshole when I saw how modest, how sad, their items were: milk, bread, eggs, and cheese. Meanwhile, our cashier here had a speech impediment, which I attributed to some mental retardation. “This is exactly why I shop at Whole Foods and not Safeway,” I thought, the latter being of more ghetto patronage. Outside, last night’s sticky piss turns rancid under the sun. The slurring cashier, perhaps over-compensating his cognitive deficiency with an attempt at some personality, engaged the deformed veteran with trite small talk about ham, which really fucking pissed me off. Why does this woman keep having children? Has she not heard of condoms or a calculator? What kind of grocery store hires retards? Did this man enjoy killing gooks in delusional patriotism? Karma is lovely. I found myself trapped in such thoughts, in the hell within myself convinced it was America, eyeing the wine and popcorn shrimp that I laid on the conveyor belt, now approaching their ultimate purchase. I swiped my card with ease, went home, and finished the wine and popcorn shrimp naked the way an asshole might do so alone on a Saturday while watching the entire third season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose asshole-y protagonist gets zero critique from me. I graciously laugh with him, never at him. I only hope you do the same. Thank you.
I’m seated at a large table with an attractive waspy caucasian woman and her boyfriend, who I gather is Jewish by his hair, facial features, and quick demeanor. They caught my attention when he said “I’ll go if you want, but I’d rather not,” regarding a social event the former mentioned. He spoke this in an assertive tone, somewhat brittle with chronic patience, but not brash. “Don’t yell at me,” the woman exasperatedly said, which is something women tend to say even though the man is not yelling. The man, skilled at boyfriendhood, didn’t retort, but put on his headphones and began mildly moving his head. The woman’s hair was dyed from “dirty” blond to blond, a condition betrayed by the former’s roots growing from her scalp, as if defiantly asserting a slow deviation from the Aryans. As for the Jew, nothing could hide his diaspora, now typing elegant code into a Startup. When her breakfast burrito (a burrito fashioned with the constituents of breakfast items: eggs, sausage, cheese, etc.) arrived, all three of us meekly looked at its daft girth, ponderously folded and sagging on the plate. “Have half,” the woman said, in self-conscious loyalty to her diet. “It’s okay,” he replied, as both a direct answer and perhaps even some kind of existential placation offered to the world at large. She looked upset. They may argue about this at some point in their relationship. She will store this mild transgression for later. “It’s huge,” she said, which is when I smiled. That’s what she said, I considered saying, but instead imagined his meaty schlong buried deep inside her gentile grace.
I remember looking out the window in the subway and being met with the frenetic blackness rushing by, per the self-centered orientation to which we are all bound, for it was actually me rushing by it, such darkness. My mother always had grave matters to attend downtown, from her legal separation with my father, to various visa statuses of countries she, in her mind, might escape to. In the train coming home, I would be reminded of myself by a semblance imposed on the window, as if defiantly extant for no reason. The lesson was rather morbid for an 8 year old: the passing void of perceived chaos and its passive witness. My thin expression had been affixed onto the world like saran wrap around some leftovers. In the fashion of mid-90s Magic Eye posters, one could only see the hidden image by paradoxically ignoring it, looking past it, attuning their focus by counterintuitively not looking. The image could now rise in 3D with uncanny joy, an apparition of something that wasn’t there. I remember Victoria Park being our exit, eastward into the suburbs — towards a modest first home whose upstairs front windows rolled their eyes, whose zit of a doorbell was barely rung, and whose backyard was a grave in ways — led harshly by the arm, slowed down by heels, in a soft warm hand into the streets, of moving monsters and buried cries.
I am not on Facebook anymore, but about two or so months ago, while perusing a stranger’s page, I saw my name mentioned in a conversation to which I was unwittingly in tangent. Another stranger had called me a “tool” or “turd” (I can’t remember exactly, but recall it being a four-letter t-word). I call the two invoked people strangers because (a) I had never met them in person, or (b) had never interacted with them online, in any way, however ephemeral, including twitter ats or comment threads. In short, these were pure inviolate strangers, the former with whom I was friends by receptive cronyist default; that is, we knew the same people, in a perceived industry or community in which it was advantageous to know more of those people. Let me concede, at this point in my rhetoric, to the gossip-y feel of this post. There’s a Chinese saying which goes “great minds discuss ideas, normal minds discuss things, and small minds discuss people,” so we are hereby in the business, it seems, of the latter. I heard from another person that the person who called me a “tool” or “turd” is, or was, in an open relationship over which he was lamenting, as he was not emotionally ready (I hate to use the word “evolved”) enough to negotiate the intrasexual reality of such a relationship. I may have seen an instagram of him lying on the couch inwardly — i.e. his face dug into the back of the couch, the way Franny did in Franny and Zooey — with his thin buttocks barely convexly asserting itself inside the room. He may have been crying over his polyamorous girlfriend banging elsewhere, or was simply composing a poem in his head.
"Being with you is like being born all over again," Rocky says to Adrian in Rocky IV, in my opinion the best film in that series. He goes to the Soviet Union to fight the somewhat retarded yet pristine Drago, which, in 1985, directly correlates with ongoing Cold War rhetoric at the time. This notion of being born again is likely secular in idiom, but one cannot help but invoke Jesus Christ himself, or at least his carnal manifestation, since Rocky's central motifs of moral rebellion, out-of-body epiphany, and cyclical ascension-and-fall borrows itself from Christianity's most effective narratives. Rocky does in a barn what Drago does in a state of the art training facility, in a deft sequence juxtaposing their respective training sessions on the same body part, the ultimate lesson being that you can't buy conviction's set of nads. In all the Rocky films, our titular hero conquers his opponent from within, that place of fractured ribs and internal bleeding, as if bluntly crucified by fellow man with cushions around hands. We look to in Rocky Balboa what we may not find in ourselves: someone who will suck down raw egg yolks and run for miles and miles in the freezing chill towards City Hall, on whose steps we splay our arms not T-like on the cross, but higher, V-like, directed at the heavens, as if pointing to ultimate Dad for approval. Here, my couch feels so deep. May we each find our own Adrians, to whom we victoriously speak with utmost love into the mic, eyes sealed shut in injury, our tearful inward gaze suspended in warm blood.
Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond the panes of glass through which I ventured into his films, there in the dim room of my college media center, on unlaid Saturday nights when a profane comedy was most needed. But if art is the passive voyeurism directed at its creator, then are we not complicit by his hands? His fingers? The bad taste in my mouth may be the sudden bulimia of idle worship. “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” ends the first sentence of Anna Karenina, whose translated copy my mother read hidden under the covers with a flashlight, that indoor tent of starless wonder, whose heroine I’ve thought about—in the highjacking of my mind since—every time I wait for the train. The gift of fiction is that, at worse, it is an allegory; the horror of journalism is that it may be false. Solemn humility is not knowing, though I can’t help but think I’m a coward. A gentlest of scenes seen was in a bookstore, in Hannah and her Sisters, as Eliot read unrequitedly to Lee an e.e. cummings poem as desperate verbal foreplay, her coat not even off, the chilly air as the universe’s ongoing invitation to cuddle. We allow the pervert his page as we do the sniper his video game, as if collateral damage were mere aesthetic flaw. May a lawyer pen my ultimate open letter, a publicist my epitaph, and a forger the check that pays for it all. In the antiporn of responsibility, for once in my life, I’m trying so hard to relate to a girl. It feels cold. Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.
Every year, as an existential promise perhaps, I tell myself that I won’t watch The Bachelor that year, but end up doing so. I started feeling this way about five years ago, when seeing past contestants on the Bachelor Pad, a lesser-budgeted “sister” show featuring the most pathological personalities in basically a frat house setting, and regretting how much of myself I invested in these fucktards. The faces looked so familiar, but in ways devoid of nostalgic fondness, only apathy’s forgiveness, the way one might look at a former co-worker or roommate one habitually despised but chance encountered at the grocery store many years later. The Bachelor does more than promise its contestants love: it promises the viewer the emotional torment of its very unrequitedness. Tears fall in the limo at the end of each episode as if in our ultimate behalf, this genius of corporate voyeurism. I become so involved with each season that I often decline social engagements on Monday nights (8:00 – 10:00 PM), or rush home resenting whatever obstacle that made me late. The show is shot in a soft lens, always warm, its rosey-orange tint straight from Bonnard. Add to this heavy foundation and some bulimia, and we find a kind of heaven on earth. After the finale, each year, I would actually feel relief that I would not have to watch the show anymore, that my personal more-boring life could nudge forward and have a chance to actualize. I always feel distant empathy with the runners-up, or those who come in 3rd/4th place, and wonder about their return home, to their pleasant cities and euphemistic careers, if their minor celebrity might enhance romantic prospects. There’s something cruel and redeeming about a hot chick not finding a man. No one ever declines the “fantasy suite,” because everyone wants to fuck. And the rose with which such sentiments are conveyed is gently placed on the bedside counter, that timeless night, curling into itself in a negative bloom.
A married couple, white male and Asian female, in their mid-30s, with matching wedding bands on their respective ring fingers, are sitting directly in front of me. Each has a black iPhone4, the former on Yelp saying “Chez Mama,” a french bistro exactly one block away. The man’s hands are pink, soft, and perfectly manicured; it’s safe to bet he not only has an office job, but one at which he is generously compensated. He is wearing a dark grey Columbia fleece sweater and drinking tea, a pallid and disappointing choice compared to coffee, and one wonders if he’s a wuss. The Asian woman is likely first generation Chinese or Korean, grew up in the Bay Area or New England, obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Economics and Business, respectively, in the shortest amount of time feasible, and now makes a little over a quarter of a million at an investment firm. The man, neither the bread or argument winner, is now holding his iPhone in “landscape” mode and typing some kind of message—transcribing it from/for his wife, who just said “concurred”—with both of his thumbs in the fashion one would imagine him doing so. I’m sharing a table with them because we had simultaneously lunged at it the moment it opened up. A rationalist, I said, “we can share it,” as opposed to the more docile “can we share it?” The woman was visibly exasperated, but conceded. I gave them the more comfortable booth seats and took the wooden chair because I’m a gentleman. The barista, who seems really mellow and has a lot of things in his ear, has acutely asymmetrical hair and has put on the band Phoenix for everyone to listen to. The lead singer of Phoenix is married to Sofia Coppola, who wrote and directed a film in which a bored protagonist mistakes her entitled idleness for profundity. The majority of the patrons are either typing intensely into their MacBooks or idly browsing, the former group usually flanked by papers, pads, pens, all things evocative of imminent deadline. The wifi password here is the name of the cafe, save the possessive apostrophe in the latter. I should mention the old man, with no technology to interface with, finished with his coffee, duly sitting there with little purpose, clearly without plans for the day. The sacks beneath his eyes seem like reservoirs for past tears. The successful interracial couple eventually finished what they were doing, got up and left without looking in my direction. I keep making eye-contact with the dog tied to a tree outside, giving it a sardonic look of exaggerated facial expression, whose playful irony (perceived mockery as indiscernible empathy) it cannot understand.
I’ve been going to physical therapy for a recent injury at St. Mary’s Hospital, whose Cathotic institution fortunately does not preclude care for non-believers. At the Ontology ward, pamphlets advise you to pray. At the cafeteria, wobbly jello. During registration (I was referred by my hospital, as they did not have a hand specialist) to ensure I was covered by my insurance, I was asked by the “intake representative” about my religious beliefs.
Short of saying Atheist, I said I was Agnostic, as this didn’t seem like the place to ram “God is dead” down anyone’s throat. Besides, as a detached intellectual, I cannot subscribe to any fundamentalism, regardless of what side its arbitrary orientation may be from. The devout representative looked me directly in the eyes, solemnly, then looked away. I was damned.
I sneezed rather hard, emitting my virus into a room flanked by faded impressionist prints, some water cooler in the distance erratically burping an air bubble. A fax came in. God is dead.
This is the perfect place to get a “Bless you,” I thought. If there is a lord, and if his representatives are indeed burdened with the task of doing his pedestrian work, then I am lowly in debt to all of you. “Bless you,” I imagined coming from her warm mouth. The tongue may be a serpent going at its tale.
Do you own a turntable? If not, is there an image in your mind of "turntable owner" or a web of associations that inclines you not to buy one?
I do not own a turntable—and yes, there are two images in my mind of “turntable owner,” both of which incline me not to buy one, and they are: (1) a DJ from Miami who plays monotonous “house” music, emotively jerking his head like a pigeon, holding one ear phone to his huge head (ostensibly needing to coordinate rhythm with the outside world), covered in cologne, sweat, warlike Celtic tattoos, and the residual paste from male cosmetic products, wearing sunglasses indoors, as if to convey, to himself, an unexamined inner darkness whose ontology slides past the grease; (2) a stately/pastey sleep apnea sufferer in his mid-to-late 30s, sullen behind a beard, listening to records (whose commercial success lie in indirect correlation to their esoteric acclaim) of albums easily Spotifiable, convinced that he can hear the difference between the compressed digital file and the “warmer” tone of the former. This man is likely to live in Portland, Oregon, own a cat, and to have been the alumnus of various defunct bands, whose troubling guitar part (his) was more than experimental.
This morning while crossing the street of a busy intersection, I heard a man emphatically speaking in a pleading tone — the kind one employs not in prayer, but at one’s executioner in their penultimate moments of life — and followed the voice to someone kneeling next to a parked car, as if begging the driver to let him in. The car was empty, and so I quickly deduced it was just a crazy person. He was sweating profusely, even though it was cold outside. When Bluetooth technology first came out and people held heated business calls into their headsets, their seemingly one-sided conversations looked insane, captivated by their own voice, confidently gesticulating at ghosts. I purchased my cappuccino “to go,” for which this entire excursion was, and returned to the same intersection. The man had got up from his knees and was now standing, squinting at the sky, perhaps in the direction of some loyal listener. I followed his gaze upward, in earnest corroboration to complete the call, but was netted by birds on wires, the pedestrian lattice-work of random notes which desperate men churn into song.
Hi, I just read through all your thought catalog articles and enjoyed them very much. Am writing to request you do a female version of "what your shoes say about you" ASAP. ok thnx bye.
Thanks. People in the comments also asked for a female version, which I attempted, but realized I had little material, save some predictable and disappointing misogynist jabs, as I honestly don’t understand women. I will say that women who wear ballet flats act nice but aren’t really. For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, you may click here.
About two years ago, near the bottom of a four year depression, I ordered about a third off the menu of a Japanese place, had it delivered (~$90) and ate it (~2,700 calories) in one sitting (~7:30 - 9:00 p.m., Saturday night). I recall eating fried pork cutlet w/ curry over rice (Tonkatsu), a dozen gyoza, 2-3 spider rolls, a “party plate” of shrimp & vegetable tempura, chicken teriyaki bento box, and two deep fried soft shell crabs. Then, still unsatisfied and too lazy to slash my wrists, I went across the street to a convenience store manned by severe Muslims and bought a bag of Cheetos puffs and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia,” which I, now on my couch watching a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathon, drunkenly ingested (I forgot to mention I also “downed” 1.5 bottle(s) of wine) while cursing the Republican party, God, and my father. And yet, I woke up the next day. Existence, while empty, is oddly empathetic by its very non-judgemental vacancy. I am better now, thank you.
What comes to your mind when you hear the words "Tufts University"
To preserve the authenticity of my response, I will not refer to wikipedia. I don’t know where Tufts University is. I casually group it with Norte Dam, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Brown, and other universities whose cities in which they reside are not named. I imagine a staunch patriarchal dog being the mascot, with flabby low-hanging testicular jowls. I imagine endowed chairs with erectile dysfunction, janitors with schizophrenia, and librarians with eczema. I imagine old 18th century buildings named “Newton Hall” with shoddy wi-fi as the apparition of new technology rising as e-rapture into the low clouds, as before a storm, our fraternities and sororities emitting base hormones across unkempt knolls, endocrine heteronormative vectors of thoughtless privilege, texting re: post-curfew booty calls, some benzos skye and redbull, and the ultimate biblical parting of ass into a condom handed out for free at the student health center, whose devastated receptionist, a morbidly obese spinster, could only dream of using, of being used in such loving way — and the Indian math geek cooking up a storm in the dormitory kitchen, whose multi-cultural redolence could be smelt a month later, deep in the carpet, where creampie’d spunk crackles into the crust of fallen joy.
University of California Santa Cruz (B.A. in Art, 1998), ranked 2nd to last (just above UC Riverside) out of 8 undergraduate campuses in the UC system, a group of public universities in California. I pathetically lived on campus all four years, at Porter, a liberal arts college known for drug, sex, fashion, and hygiene indiscretions among its inhabitants, mainly melodramatic and/or depressive mid- to upper-class caucasian young adults from the suburbs with alternative tastes, whose ostensible art-making seemed subdued or ridden by slackerdom, that kind of directionless entitlement just self-conscious enough to evoke mild guilt. Despite the aforementioned, I did not do drugs or have sex; and I dressed reasonably/casually, and showered most nights. I lived next to an Andy Warhol fan who, one night in a manic episode, spray-painted her entire room silver, whose fumes permeated the walls into my own room. I may have gotten high, or cried into a phone at my mother, or fell asleep, that pale fog from which I, to this very day, doubt having really woken.
Last night I went to a bar called Novela whose theme was, as their name would suggest, books. Our literary township and eager merchants had finally joined forces in another absurd conceit. The walls were covered with books whose spines were arranged by color, creating a grand rainbow spectrum spanning the entire perimeter. Artist Chris Cobb was the first to do this (to my understanding) in There Is Nothing Wrong in This Whole Wide World (2005), an art installation at Adobe Books, San Francisco. In “Cocktails with Character,” whose eponymous drinks presumed what our favorite protagonists might have enjoyed, I had the “Jay Gatsby,” a mixture of bourbon and Islay scotch I found troublesome, its delicate glass almost ringing under the thud of crass music. Squeaky Asian girls in miniskirts as tight as condoms walked that tight-rope walk of high heels, precariously balanced on a vast floor, at times jutting out their arms for support. I would have offered my shoulder, but I was, it seemed, the “Invisible Man,” whose concoction was just a random drink I found abandoned on a table, its sole candle languidly wavering in the humble radius of its own light.
Before 12 Years a Slave or even the previews started, in a dark theatre shoveling contents procured ostensibly for the movie into my mouth, two African-Americans sat in front of me. This was natural enough, given the subject of the film. A primarily white neighborhood was now diverse: one lonely Chinese man with compulsion issues and two black men deeply engaged in a conversation.
We understand previews to be part of the “movie experience,” and so, when the black men continued talking throughout the previews, our sensibilities were challenged. I looked around. People were visibly irked, but like myself, did not feel empowered to say “shhh,” as one would in most circumstances. The movie we were about to see was about slavery, and they (the black men) sort of had a “one up” on the rest of us. Imagine telling a Jew not to sigh so much during Schindler’s List. Oy vey.
They spoke loudly throughout the white-themed previews (Matthew McConaughey with AIDS; Robert Redford stuck on a boat; some precious artsy bastards with emotional qualms) until the actual movie. It seemed racist to suspect them of racism: their utter disinterest, if not dismissal, of “white problems.” It wasn’t until the black problems that they finally stopped talking.
I finished my popcorn, tongue-ing a kernel lodged between a molar and my gums. My primary oral fixation is discomfort. The CGI’d whipping scene of Patsey flayed her flesh like Passion of the Christ, red gashes as thick as hotdogs. White people moaned. Who needs torture porn when you have to live? That should be enough.
In cleaning out my Google docs, I discovered an abandoned draft called “Rump Shaker,” last edited on November 14, 2011. I recall losing interest in the essay in anticipation of the difficulty I would have publishing it, as in our current buzzfeed/reddit-enabled cultural climate, content must not only be recent, but on fire. Dead Souls and The Castle were both published as unfinished manuscripts, so I thought I’d do the same.
Wreckz-In-Effect’s 1992 hit “Rump Shaker” is both an ode to and solicitation for such behavior. The video begins with a woman clearly lip-saxophoning, merely syncing her body to the melody, arching her back to the open notes. Attractive women tend to go through life simply being that way, while unfortunate-looking girls, reduced to practicing musical instruments five hours a day, never make it into the video. Their glory, at best, ends at the recording studio.
Teddy Riley raps check baby, check baby, one, two, three, four clipping the latter numeral each subsequent time, so that, basically, he counts backwards until there is nothing left to say. This kind of “buffer counting” common in rap may be redundant and absurd, but allows to song to move along. We may have stumbled upon a metaphor for the regress of human evolution, before the missionary position, when coitus was not necessarily an “eye to eye” psychological encounter. This is essentially what rump shaking is: the advertisement of behind.
The refrain all I wanna do is a zoom, zoom, zoom, and a boom, boom kind of incurs linguistic vertigo with its triple zoom, cinematically envisioned in the viewer’s mind as he uncontrollably falls towards a distant planetary rump, only to splat against it in a double boom. Though falling on ass is hardly death, rather just the opposite: life’s glory distilled into
Per my therapist’s suggestion that—as an active measure to contrast my sense of alienation—I engage in “small talk” in public scenarios, I’ve been trying to. Today at Bi-Rite (an ostensibly “community” overpriced grocery store), I engaged the cashier, with earnest therapeutic intention, in a conversation about how awesome it was that the chanterelle mushrooms were only $9.99 per pound (generally ~$29.99/lbs). She nicely reciprocated by saying something like “yeah, must’ve been a great harvest,” alluding that the bounty of a harvest increases supply, which per the law of microeconomics would lower the cost. (We shall ignore macroeconomics now, as it’s late and I’m near tanked.) The cashiers at Bi-Rite generally have many arm tattoos, that lineage of rebellious life choices which eventually lead to cashiering at a theoretical co-op. “Awesome,” I said, enlivened by this light-hearted conversation, finally satisfied with my therapist’s advice. I cooked the mushrooms with shallot and endive (onion and cabbage for culinary snobs) after “deglazing” the pan in which I cooked three lamb ribs. This all went down my throat with Domaine Mas Barrau, Cabernet Franc (2010), which I procured last weekend from Rainbow Grocery, another co-ep with utopian political posturing. The cashier was one of those hardened butch big-boned dykes who I love but am afraid to talk to. I would have said something about my yogurt, casually soliciting acceptance, my happiness built around a sudden smile.
It’s embarrassing to make eye contact with whoever is entering the restroom you have just used, as its general condition—especially the toilet’s rim, seat, and bowl—is likely to be attributed to its most recent use, namely, you.
As I exited the sole restroom, my detritus still languidly funneling downward in a weak flush, a lady in mom jeans was staring right at me. She looked at me with such disdain that I could only reason I had kept her own imminence at bay.
What was a lady in mom jeans doing in a hip cafe? Maybe she was on her way to Ross or JC Penney. Had I become one of those judgmental dicks unable to relate to other demographics? Were they actually playing Beach House?
Mom jeans opens the restroom door and immediately looks at me with the eerie intimacy of consecutive defecation. But this was hardly a budding friendship. She looked pissed, though I’m sure she shat. We had a connection, and I had a hard feeling.
I recently came across a Brookstone catalog whose customers looked like they were really enjoying the products, their facial expressions of nascent eroticism, as if they were about to “arrive,” caught in the moment of arrival, or recently spent from it, for the very first time. Most people orgasm into the blackness behind their eyelids because they don’t want to witness their partner doing the same thing. Love, then, could be the complicity of choreographed blindness, the compassion of looking away. I was not seduced into buying any Brookstone products, and while I mentally made fun of these models for their unrealistic humanism—which, alienlike, verged on anthropomorphic—I did notice a sting of envy under my own face, like lime squirted over a cut, as if my flayed face were a soft taco entering the moist cavern which chewed me alive.
Today at Whole Foods a vegan—this was not immediately apparent, but became quickly evident—couple wanted two slices of pizza at “prepared foods” but required the pizzas to be specially made. They asked the cook if it was possible to use vegan cheese, and the cook—a frumpy tired-looking woman who probably grew up with many brothers and was well-versed in being fucked with—docilely went from behind the counter to the refrigerated aisle to get vegan cheese. The couple approved the cheese, to the relief of everyone, including me, waiting in line.
The guy was carrying a canvas tote bag adorned with the logo of an obscure non-profit and wearing industrially designed sandals in which one could walk many miles in; the girl had on many loose bracelets, likely purchased from Tibetan or Hindi themed stores, such that she tinkled as she moved. She also wore multiple toe rings which I had to keep myself from counting.
"We’ll need some protein," the guy said, which turned into a complicated discussion about seitan I exasperatedly walked away from. I settled for some artisan cheese instead, bringing the sweaty block home with me. Opening it up felt/smelt like accepting a lover into bed after a long hike and before a shower, the kind of faith in funk which acquired taste strives for. Everyone has the right to eat or not eat what they want, so I started with my pride. Talk about suffering.
Today I woke up, fed the cat, detached my phone from its cord—by which it had been charging since I went to bed—and returned to said bed to acclimate to any updates which may have happened whilst asleep. A few people had favorited a tweet; someone else had liked an Instagram of mine. I lay in bed, slightly curling into the phone in the direction of fetal position, as a parent might protect their child in heavy rain, or as a man will try to “wrap” himself around a sexual prospect at a bar, in the presence of competition. This getting out of bed then fiercely returning to it is something I practice on the weekends; partially, because it’s my only chance to do it; sometimes, because I’m hung over; but mainly, as a listless commentary directed at the universe. “Please,” I seem to be saying, the warm light under my eyelids competing with and ultimately losing to the emboldening day, its emanant bluntness almost bullylike. I get out of bed, blind feet finding ground for the second time, the plagiarism of moments, as if reincarnated in the endless cycle of feeling the same.
I recently caught myself sticking my tongue out at children whom I deemed age appropriate (~3-6 years) enough to find playfulness—thus appreciation, though sans any irony the act was partially imbued with—in this unexpected gesture of a man whose public countenance might otherwise be considered despondent. I’ll also open my eyes very wide, craning my neck towards them, with a look of intense yet aimless preoccupation, perhaps stunned or even fearful, like fowl being choked. They usually respond, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes in tentativeness, or confusion. I have yet to make a child cry, a point at which I’ve promised to stop. The tongue is displayed sideways, a recent affect of mine, and I wonder if (subconsciously) Miley Cyrus’ own tongue tendencies have influenced me. Where she merely has a misguided pop-corrupted understanding of what makes a person alluring, I am trying to augment the present moment, to give the emptiness of life they will one day discover some veil of meaning, a curtain before the void.
Last night I went to a liquor store to get a bottle of wine, as I experience emotional difficulty entering my condo without having some kind of alcohol off of which to “buzz” in hand.
I was researching bottles of piqued interest with my phone when an attractive woman entered the aisle. We negotiated our bodies with strained politeness, making sure not to eclipse the other’s view. A similar thing happens in book stores, but oddly, never at the groceries. We must care about wine and fiction more than pasta and soup. I guess that’s romantic.
I walked through the other aisles considering possible things I would discover to have lacked, but decided all I needed was the wine, in whose year held the harvest of something since past, but bottled up, memorialized, like an urgent feeling that somehow died on its way to the face.
She had just purchased her wine at the counter when the cashier—whose skin and cultural demeanor I had racially profiled—asked if she wanted the price tag removed, a common practice for wines purchased en route to an imminent party, or date.
Osama delicately sliced the price tag off with a razor blade, using tiny lateral motions as in the cutting of bread. I thought about where she was going, who the wine was for, how nervous she and the guy might have been, but only before the 750 ml was administered to their senses, now languidly falling into each other, the accidental bumping of skulls, and the final reprieve of tongues.
When it was my turn at the counter, Osama didn’t offer to remove my price tag. He knew exactly where I was going, to which I loyally went, as if to corroborate some unspeakable fate on his behalf.
Yesterday at work a woman for whom English is a second language, who immigrated to the United States as an adult already, was at the kitchen holding what appeared to be a Kombucha squash. In broken English and a heavy accent, she said “wa sa?” (trns. want some). I told her that you cannot eat Kombuchas raw, that she would need an oven. “You need to cook that,” I said to her confused gentle face. “Bake at 350° for at least 35 minutes, but you don’t have salt and herbs, you can’t do this here.” I supplemented her incomprehension with hand gestures miming the opening of an oven. I even dialed the imaginary knob to 350°. She asked me to confirm what she was holding. “It’s a Kombucha squash, and you can’t just tear into it and eat it.”
I took my microwave butter popcorn-infused tea out of the microwave and left her standing there. I went back to my desk and did tedious things inside an excel file, compulsively hitting “save” because my parents got separated when I was 8. I thought about why this Chinese lady didn’t try harder to learn English, and also how middle-aged Chinese ladies seem to always be semi-inappropriately carrying around food. A crowd of co-workers had gathered in the kitchen, whose joyful sounds of wet mastication muffled their acclaim. “Wow, this tastes like honeydew!” someone said. “Mmm’s called a Casaba mm-melon I think,” someone slurped.
As I approached the kitchen, it became clear that what I mistook for Kombucha squash was indeed this so-called “Casaba melon,” though I’d never heard of the thing. Mrs. Zhang had sliced the melon into perfect thin wedges for everyone, circling a large plate as hands to a clock pointing at every hour, minute, second. I ate in mild appreciation, though was still a little peeved. In America, it’s called “honey dew on the inside,” ignoring how it may appear on the outside. I guess that’s a good start.
My friend and I were supposed to meet for brunch on Sunday at 11:00am. He texted me hung over—life problems become drinking problems, and vice versa, ad infin—saying it would be “more like noon.” Finding myself with one hour to kill, an idiom whose suicidal spirit I’ve always appreciated, I went to the bookstore and purchased Kafka’s The Trial, which I hereby admit to never having read.
Jimmy C. found himself in line, long after the preceding transaction had ended, irritably listening to the cashier—a sad likely divorcée with disheveled gray hair and defensive esoteric taste—go on and on with the customer about the use of a certain camera angle by which he was touched, even extending his hands to frame his vision the way directors do. Jimmy C. toiled in futility waiting for this bastard to get over himself. Jimmy C. is a hero.
"I’m here," said the text. "Where?" I typed, scanning the restaurant’s entrance. "At your place," he texted. No, we’re supposed to meet at the restaurant. No, you said for me to pick you up. No, jackass. No. "Don’t make me screenshot this." I screenshotted the email in which I told him to meet me at the restaurant and emailed the email (now technically a pic) to him, with "jackass" in the subject line.
Jimmy C. had more time to kill. He looked around him, scanning the beautiful women having brunch on the sidewalk, the yellow light languidly running down their necks like some molten gold of vision’s tongue. C. held out his hands, bracing the quiet scene, cropping out husbands and children, CGI-ing in the better version of himself. The one with hair, reasonable serotonin, dopamine, and a steel dong. A diseased pigeon looked cured in the sky. “I’m here,” said the text. This time it was real.
I caught myself fantasizing doing the “moonwalk” at a party which concluded with me going home with a woman who was impressed with my moonwalk. I remember when “Billie Jean” came out, there was a crazy woman who claimed she was Billie Jean—that she was indeed Michael Jackson’s lover, despite the inverse as asserted by the lyrics. I was only 6 years old or so, but I distinctly remember feeling sad for this crazy lady. I imagined a black woman with nappy hair, perhaps a missing tooth, on some form of government subsidy, and whose resume couldn’t even fill an 8 ½ x 11” sheet of office paper. I don’t know where I learned racism, but it happened early.
There’s a lot of stuff online about how Michael Jackson did the “Smooth Criminal” lean, which came down to a 45° angle. Some say they CGI’d out wires; some say they bolted his shoes to the floors; some say it’s an optical allusion, that the entire set was tilted; others say it was just genius. “Smooth Criminal” may be a lonely person’s version, or critique, of “Lean on Me” (Bill Withers, 1972), in which there is no one to lean on.
The gravity on the moon is only 16.7% of the earth’s, hence the lofty walk gliding over the mind of the witnesser faster than his mind can process it, something so foreign yet natural, imbued with a kind of miracle Michael Jackson’s music is about. He denies physics, his very race, and his nose, slowly carving it into a bleak beak. One recalls his infant son, dangling over a balcony. He would not have fallen in the childlike mind of his dad, in whose mind gravity could be broken with feet. This too is how I dance, in the expectation of love.
You’d think that the hipper and more culturally progressive Apple, Inc. would rename their trash bin “recycle bin,” since it’s arbitrary and simply semantics. The whole ingrown experience of habitual tinkering and final release would seem, or feel, “greener,” one’s eco-fingerprint feeding into some post-consumer collective of more considerate sensibilities. You’d think the implicitly “dorky” Microsoft, despite their petty attempts to rebrand themselves as cooler than Apple—featuring ads with, ultimately, black people w/ dreads amicably popping—would be the ones using the ’80s era globally solipsist “trash,” instead of their currently enlightened recycle. One does wonders about compost. I once knew a girl from Bolinas who threw fruit pits on the street after sucking off the radii of their ripened flesh. Met with my dismay, and ambivalent boner, she said one word: biodegradable. The arguments never stop, about what we’re doing (or not doing) to the world. It’s a kind of existential competitiveness of not having existed, leaving behind an embryo’s footprint, so small, perhaps even aborted. Let’s take these unrequited love letters, these sparse notes for unactualized ideas, these diatribes indicting our parents’ failings, these .docs that never did nobody no good, and reuse them.
The other night I was involved in a game of Foosball with what appeared to be an attractive couple, or at least two people on a date. He had blond hair, and what—despite possible faulty memory on my end—I’m obstinately remembering as a pastel colored Ralph Lauren Polo shirt. His date had one of those expensive handbags with ostentatious adornments, often purchased by women who have little to hold. She also had blond hair. Halfway into the game, at a critical moment requiring intense concentration from the girl, who was struggling at the goalie position with a non-ambidextrous left hand, the guy abruptly asked “so where’s your boyfriend?” without curiosity; that is, in a passive-aggressive tone aimed to imply that their “date” was rendered not just absurd, but a little pathetic, by her emotional and/or sexual unavailability.
In Foosball, the ball will often wander into an existential “sweet spot,” untouchable by either team. Here, as it is agreed upon, one may blow the ball into partisan territory, the inherent entropy of pulmonary wind unbiased toward any particular side. When strangers convene at the back of a bar, a game is usually involved, of polite competitiveness. Before I could inhale, the guy—in alpha male auto pilot—vehemently launched his face towards the table, miscalculating his depth perception, and accidentally slammed his mouth into the wall of the Foosball table with the full weight of his earnestness. Now stoic under the pain of a split lip slowly secreting blood, with maybe even a loose tooth, he hurtfully waved his date off, whose face, for the first time that night, softened with affection.
I went to a party last Saturday night, I didn’t get laid, I got in a fight. It ain’t no big thing. So begins Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” from her self titled 1988 album Lita. The music video—like many of that period—was set in some abandoned warehouse, usually tinted blue, and sparsely decorated with a band’s stage set. There was fire and blocks of ice in the background, likely representing the ambivalent volatility of her love. She was briefly engaged to Tony Iommi, the guitarist and original co-founder of Black Sabbath, towards whom she admits to having negative feelings. Guys in bands can be dicks. In the video, she provocatively arches her back, on knee pads (which was and is still weird), the expression of sexual availability via “doggie style,” which, in my youth, really confused me. I was a boy, not a dog. At its best, a pop song is a diary entry you don’t have to write. I’ve been to many parties on Saturday nights, after which I didn’t get laid, but got in a fight (w/ myself), which I suppose is solemnly “cute,” looking back, but I did feel like shit at the time. It’s been so many years, but that song is still so honest. Whenever I play the riff to “Paranoid,” I imagine awful things happening to me.
When Drake performed at the VMAs, they cut to Rihanna—award shows often do this, like self-aware complicity to whatever gossip is happening—because she and Drake were/are romantically involved, whose fervor incurred some scuffle (someone’s head bled) between her ex Chris Brown and Drake, in her honor. Rihanna, on my flat-screen TV, looked kind of sad, though her shoulders were faintly moving to the beat. It seemed like the kind of disappointment that love cannot remove, her lowered eyes focused on something meaningless and random, as an ode to her very life. I really like Rihanna. She seems sincerely (beyond marketing or self-conceit/-delusion) depressed—like Kurt Cobain or Chan Marshall (Cat Power), as opposed to Bright Eyes, NIN, or The Cure, who aren’t necessarily “faking it,” but whose depression seem aesthetically convenient—like she just wants to be loved, in a girlish way that is ultimately timeless, but her idea of love mistakes a fist for feeling, a low hairline for contemplation. Her performance of “Stay” from SNL was so beautiful I often watch it, moving my lips along in the pantomime of being reciprocated, feeling the spotlight’s glimmer, as one salty constellation, in her eyes. I would marry her, cook for her every night. Slow roast pork until it could be pulled. Get any tattoo on my body that she wanted.