Thursday, December 29, 2011

A small playlet I wrote about a song by The Who.

SCENE: Late night. A kitchenette. Two YOUNG MEN are sitting around a table, getting properly drunk. The whining mew of an accordion can be heard in the distance, along with the cackling of an old woman and a repetitive stomp.

YOUNG MAN #1: What is that sound?

YOUNG MAN #2: My mother.

YOUNG MAN #1: She... is she playing the accordion?

YOUNG MAN #2: Technically it's a squeezebox.

YOUNG MAN #1: A squeezebox? How is that different from an accordion?

YOUNG MAN #2: The official word is "concertina", actually. It's not an accordion.

YOUNG MAN #1: How interesting.

YOUNG MAN #2: TRUST ME. I know more about the history of the concertina than any other human being on the planet, excepting Mama. I can rattle off every instance of it's storied past.

YOUNG MAN #1: She's actually not that bad, not that I have much experience with the sound of concertinas and very little to compare it to.

YOUNG MAN #2: Yeah, but she plays it all night. Every night. Dusk till dawn. Papa can't sleep at night.

They pause to listen to the music, as the crazy old lady plays "Lady of Spain". YOUNG MAN #1 starts to giggle briefly, as if he's got a private joke. YOUNG MAN #2 pours himself a drink and looks downcast.


YOUNG MAN #2: What's so funny?

YOUNG MAN #1: She plays the squeezebox all night, and Papa can't sleep.

YOUNG MAN #2: I don't get it. What's so funny?

YOUNG MAN #1: She's... playing... with... her... SQUEEZEBOX.

YOUNG MAN #2: Yes, yes she is. And it's terrible. It is my own personal purgatory.

YOUNG MAN #1 giggles riotously.

YOUNG MAN #2: I'm not sure you realize how miserable this is for us. She's obsessed. We love our mother very much, and we support her in everything she does, but the concertina has become a sick and desperate plea for help. We've tried taking it away.

YOUNG MAN #1: Squeezebox. It is a potential euphemism for vagina.

YOUNG MAN #2 looks deeply aghast at the idea.


YOUNG MAN #1: Dude, calm down. It was just a joke. Just a joke about your mom's squeezebox.

YOUNG MAN #2: IT'S A CONCERTINA. And my mother is just going through a really hard time right now. She lost her job at the plant, and she's seeking solace in the concertina. We know it's an uncommon hobby, and it's definitely hard to live with, but it's keeping her from hurting herself.

YOUNG MAN #1: Right, right, but you must admit, talking about your mama's squeezebox is mildly amusing.

YOUNG MAN #2: No, it isn't. And I'd like you to leave. I'm asking you to leave. I need you to leave right now.

YOUNG MAN #2 starts crying. YOUNG MAN #1 laughs and leaves.

YOUNG MAN #1: Hey, the music's alright. (leaves)

The music reaches a terrifying crescendo, and the stomping continues, and we can finally make out the old woman's tears, filling the air.


the end

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Modest Proposal: Christmas Edition

Just a few short days left before Christmas, and I've been tired of it sense the day after Halloween. The second the last candle flickers out in the Jack O'Lanterns around town, the stores begin their ramp up on our collective wallets/testicles, aching to squeeze every last dollar out of us, knowing that they have long succeeded in tying the amount of money we spend on presents to the amount we love our hateful, vicious crotch-spawn.

However, paradoxically, an inverse dictum has arisen to this rule: the "victory condition" of Christmas is in spending the absolute least whilst simultaneously making it look like you've spent more, and hence the idea of the "Black Friday" sale, the worst sort of lie. They ratchet down the prices for those ignominious shrews willing to crawl out of their turkey and cranberry laden stupors desperate enough to save a few bucks on a Chinese manufactured waffle iron (do the Chinese even eat waffles? I suddenly have a desire to see what Chinese cuisine would do to a waffle). Yes, for $2, you too could give somebody you pretend to love a shitty piece of unnecessary equipment that not only is inferior in every way, but they probably already have, if they're the sort of person who is mad enough about waffles for you to logically assume that the gift of a waffle iron would be sufficient for their love. The secret undercurrent of the "Black Friday" culture is one of underlying insult and disregard, the useless crap of Wal-Mart and Target sales is foisted upon others as a substitute for the very brotherly love and filial piety that Christmas (and, indeed, any of the related non-Christian holidays) should represent.

Unfortunately, it doesn't.

We have somehow built a holiday which exists entirely as a substitution for love, a sort of fatty gloss over a pile of scraggly offal, attempting to fool the deity with a lie. While it is true that work, as translated into financial recompense, is a worthy and worthwhile thing, the natural American tendency to prefer quantity over quality has led to a hideous Frankenstein golem of a tradition. Mom works a lot to provide for her family, and then spends a lot of money at the end of a year to provide gifts for the horrible little shits, but then, ah ha, she loses any and all vindication by bargain hunting.

A real gift, obviously, should be judged not on the perfunctory presentation of a traditional doodad on a specific day, but by it's actual value to the giftee. For instance, if a gentleman is wooing his lass and presents her with an engagement ring, he would be cheapening his love by bargain hunting. The love he offers would be best expressed with the most expensive ring he could afford, if he is indeed marrying for love. If he's marrying out of convenience, as happened merely two generations ago commonly, then, yes, bargain hunting on the ring would be acceptable. But, of course, in a marriage of convenience, the lady has the advantage of being able to say no, and keeping the offered ring regardless. Thus, it is in the gentleman's interest to present a ring of sufficient value as to not offend the lady, and his ring not be made a failed attempt. The same is at Christmas, with the implied notions of familial and friendly affection.

Tragically, the retailers have, of course, become addicted to Christmas. They must offer increasingly drastic sales to survive, and they must force employees to take time away from their own families so that non-retail families can go through with a horrible cycle of affection-pretense that they are told is mandatory. The employees, who can usually lose their job at any time, have no response, and must be present.

Therefore, I suggest a one year moratorium on Christmas and the related winter holidays. I understand that it might be difficult to explain to the kids, but if you really must give them toys, give them toys anyway, and don't set it up as a conditional holiday to a religion and tradition that you no longer treat as anything other than an affectation. If you're a Christian, for Christ's sake, stop celebrating Christmas by wasting your resources to perform an empty and meaningless activity if you're not also going to spend the night before at church and the next three months preparing for a 40 day starvation diet to celebrate his death. You can't have it both ways, you can't treat Christmas presents like a substitute for love if you're also trying to squeeze economy into it, and you can't be a Christian and celebrate this tawdry little festival without some sort of momentary reflection on the futility, waste and vanity of the exercise.

And all the Whos down in Whoville loved Christmas a lot, but the blogger, who lived just north of Whoville, did not...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the subject of sincerity

I think a lot about sincerity, which is a trait I feel I lack.

I wish to believe in things, I want my words to be backed up by the impression that I care about what I say, that I've considered my philosophical notions deeply and that I remain to my own self true. The difficulty with this is that as much as I want to be sincere, I also want to think of myself as one step ahead of others, which requires a tendency toward smuggery that I personally find appalling in others, yet have no problem with in myself. This, naturally, kicks off my hypocrisy alarm, and if there's one thing a person like me can't stand, it's hypocrisy, so I pull back. I resort to dither and silence, rather than affecting what I may actually feel at the moment.

Naturally, sincerity is the trait I most admire in others, so I tend to fall for fake sincerity every single time. I believed Barack Obama's bit about hope, because, damn it, I wanted it to be real. I believe in every Christmas special's lesson about the true meaning of the season, and I believe all the high-minded parts of the Bible, despite simultaneously expressing grief for the more ludicrous parts of it that somehow didn't get filtered out over 4000 years of scrivener's maintenance.

I'm not really sure if sincerity still exists, especially since my notion of sincerity seems to come from a manufactured Pollyanna/Smurf's Christmas Special sort of gloss that represents sincerity, but the very few people I've met who actually expressed it were also either a) children, b) the elderly or c) very, very stupid. The irony of the 2012 election season seems to be that of all the candidates, Michelle Bachmann actually IS the most sincere, a thought that worries me. It seems like the current system we have, wherein we have a great many little fascists in charge, none of whom actually believe in their word-spouts and therefore possess no real threat to the actual liberties they yammer on about loving, is relatively benign (i.e. not aggressively tumorous) and it can be relied upon to fail at every given turn in which it has legitimate possibility of seizing control. My worry, however, is the second a sincerely evil bastard gets in a position of authority, and believes every single damn word s/he says. Then, we're fucked. Our only security at the moment is knowing that none of them mean it.

What to do? Well, I suppose we could all continue upon our smug little lives of irony and self-impressed nuance, hoping against hope that everybody's ambitions remain entirely self-centered. Little acts of sincerity, such as sincerely preferring one kind of music to another, are probably the best we can hope for. The second you get sincere about anything on a grander scale, it has the severe possibility of mutating into fanaticism, a subtle difference a certain percentage of society would rather deliberately not teach the next generations. They like us fanatical, but they hate us sincere. It is a paradox, Mr. Spock.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Le Magicien

Last night, I dreamt of a magician, for whom I was inexplicably employed. I didn't question this fact, it felt natural to be employed to this beast. He was very tall, impeccably mannered, pronouncing things rather like the late character actor, Hans Conried, best known for playing "Captain Hook" in the Disney production of "Peter Pan". Instead of the usual tuxedo, he wore a long grey gown, and pointy Arabian shoes.

This magician's obsession was in "perfecting" the "guillotine act", that old canard wherein a plant from the audience is drawn up to the stage, and her head put in an antique guillotine, which the magician has taken pains to prove is real by repeatedly chopping heads of cabbage in it. A great dramatic drumroll proceeds the affair, and the blade falls, miraculously bypassing the victim's neck, and she is released unharmed. A rather trite trick, long out of date. The magician, of course, was determined to "improve" the scenario.

First off, my task was to build a large metal cage, which he had conveniently purchased from a magician's supply store, and I was to put it together. I discovered that this was rather simple to do, as it clinked together with the ease of a pop-up tent. At the top of the cage was a hole for the victim's neck, and the magician had another assistant, this time a lovely and mute woman in a gigantic black hat with a mourning veil, arrived with the "guillotine". It was a sort of collar that fit on top of the cage, and could easily allow a human head to pass.

I was then to find "victims", that word specifically. Luckily, an audience had arrived, and the female assistant pulled a rope, and what I thought was a solid wall was actually a stage curtain. Out there, a hundred rapt viewers waited to be selected for the privilege of being a "victim". The orchestra began to play, and I walked out into the audience, shouting "Who wants to be the victim for the newest and greatest guillotine trick in history?"

A very fat dark man, resembling Buddha, raised his hand, and I delicately led him to the cage, where he was locked in and his head allowed to poke out through the collar. The orchestra began to play, and the man began to cry. He knew what was going to happen. The magician raised his hands, and I was motioned to calm the fat man. I reached my hand into the cage, and took his meaty fist, held it gingerly, and tried to do my best. With this, he calmly smiled and accepted his fate. The guillotine collar snapped shut with some sort of magical blade mechanism, and his head flew off, spinning across the stage and onto the floor.

The magician sneered, and said, "Well, it didn't work this time!" The orchestra began to play a jaunty polka and I was motioned to find another victim. The hands went back up, and I realized that it wasn't an audience at all... they were all suicidals, desperate for their moment. The female assistant reappeared, this time wearing a nurse's outfit, and began to mop up the blood.

It was at this point that I woke up, freaking out. I have nightmares frequently, usually about ghosts or being lost in an unfamiliar place, but this one was a little too personal for my tastes. I don't like my own brain's implication that I would be alright in a grim situation like that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the worm you're-a-bore-to-us

Hello there. I'm sure if you're reading this, you know that I've blogged before, with mixed results, and various degrees of apathy blending like so many Benday Dots into rage, largely due to the reality that blogging (serious blogging, the sort of blogging that doesn't feature @stephenfrys in it) is much like pissing into the wind and then realizing it's an unusually placid day. I only seem to endeavour upon things for the deliberate purpose of gaining recognition for doing them, and since I am neither attractive nor wealthy, cranking out wordage in a flail for attention seems to be the best I can do. Were I attractive, you'd be interested in my thoughts regardless of their value, and were I wealthy, I'd tell you you're interested in my thoughts and you'd be duly enraptured by your desire to be as wealthy as I.

And thus it begins: a sort of crawl to focus, begging you to take the barest effort to recognize that I am alive, that I exist, that I am alive and exist in the same subdemesne of reality as you, and that I'd like you to cut to the chase, stop acting like a dick, and pay attention to me, God Damn It. But I know you won't, so I'll just smile and pretend, as this thing called the Internet grinds ever so nominally forward. I am less than shit to you, Y'Worship. I am here, a'singin' and a'dancin', and you can happily choose to click away. And there's not a goddamn thing I can do to stop you.

But where will you be going? If you're like me, you really only care about less than five sites, one of them is Facebook, and the other is Youtube. You might care about Twitter (I've since stopped). Of the remaining three, one is your pornography site of preference (I judge not), one is probably your aggregator of preference (POETV is mine) and the fifth is the real stickler. The fifth, well, that's your barometer site, isn't it?

- It could be a news site, likely of the political faction of your choice, thus minimizing the fretsome seconds worrying about whether or not the site you're reading will lie to you about your political bogey of choice. This is probably the most likely.

- If it's a site that will tell you about how much money you currently have right now, stop. Immediately. Click away and never return. I will not frot you here.

- Sports? Do they still have those?

- It could be one of those growling forums that you can hide within behind a mask of feigned anonymity (until somebody steals your joke, and then you must claim it). To be fair, most of the time, this option doubles as the porn site, so you're free to consider this one fifth-point-five if you like.

- It could be eBay. If so, you are probably a candidate for "Hoarders". It could be WebMD. If so, you are probably a candidate for electroshock therapy and a padded cell.

Whatever your fifth is, it's kind of your internet rorshach test. I don't particularly care to hear about it. We don't count Google, obviously.

It seems to me that we have made this thing we hive on a little too close to our collective mental apparati: it's too fast and too gracious in satisfying our monstrous egos. We no longer have to challenge ourselves by finding the things we want to read about somewhere in the newspaper or in the card catalogue, we just type them into the Googlebocks, and up it comes. We no longer have to risk the possibility of accidentally finding something we don't care to read but would be useful anyway. On the hunt for Mad Magazine, for instance, we no longer accidentally stumble across Lord of the Rings. And, thus, we are lessened. And, thus, you think me an incalculable nerd for choosing those two examples.

So, I'll do this, and I'll rant from time to time. I'll philosophize about things that hassle me and bother me. I'll praise things when praise is due. But, and I promise you this, The Nobody Who Has Made It This Far, I'll pull no punches. I've decided to be honest in my churl.