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Thursday, December 31, 2009


Tiger Woods's virile member, and manpurses.

TIGER: golf geek. The guy has geekface the way Jay Cutler is said to have jerkface. Iffen youse is SURPISED that he started making up for lost time when he got rich, then youse knows so little about human nature that I don't think it's safe for the rest of us to allow your ass to go out in public.

Tiger reminds me of a guy I worked with in high school. He wore a fucking PING cap to work every day. I would have never even have been cursed with the knowledge of what PING is if he hadn't gone on about it at nauseating length ("I betcha don't know what my hat means? It's the greatest golf gear company in the whole, wide, etcetera, etcetera, Ann has long stopped listening..."). He wanted to date me. I would have rather dated the damn cap -- at least it was succinct. I ran into him years later and he had lost about fifty pounds. (Maybe he took up speed golfing.) He gave me this smug look as though to say, ha ha, now that I am lithe, you shall be mine! He still had the fucking hat on. I heard my mom calling. I've never seen anybody look so confused.

Are YOU still confused? About Tiger, I mean. Female humans HATE golfers. We have almost no patience for listening to stupid stories about stupid shit that men like to do. I'm a sporty chick; I like games that are cool to watch or play, like football, or the other football, or even tennis. But 99 out of a hundred of us won't even listen to the two words immediately following 'golf'...

... unless those words are 'I'm buying,' and the girl in question happens to be a particularly shallow specimen. None of Tiger's coochies exactly have the air of chess champions, n'est-ce pas? But guess what: he didn't care. He's a golfer. Taste is clearly not his forte. As hostile as I feel toward golf nerds in general, however, I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy. He's only been doing what every other hopeless dork would have done.

MANPURSE: stop shaming them, please, before they change their minds. I have a hunch that I speak for every woman who has ever been stuck out in public with a male friend or relative who keeps buying/collecting/hunting/gathering shit and cramming it into her bag. "Sweetheart, can I put my sunglasses in there? Baby doll, surely you won't mind if I ask them to box up my garlic-rich leftovers and shove them in your new leather Chanel bag. My arms hurt, can I put my new weight set in your tulle knapsack? Uh, and sugar angel... is there still room for these golf clubs?"

Not only does this annoy me so much my teeth hurt, it doesn't make any goddamn sense. Statistical and anecdotal evidence alike point to the mang's tendency to have larger biceps than his shorter half; sure, women are supposed to have superior lower body strength, but when was the last time you saw a human carrying a purse in its feet? Boys, for the love of not getting your face smashed, ignore the haters. Manpurses are SO virile -- I think I'm going to burst when I see you valiantly hauling your own horseshit around in that droll Vuitton case. It almost makes up for your PING tattoo.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A translation from Cioran

Ship smith clued me in to Cioran; I don't know whether this passgage has been translateed earlier and better than this, but what I'm reading right now particularly sez it:

" If an obscure universal force has decreed that you will belong to the order of victims, you'll go to the end of your days stumbling, squishing the scrap of paradise that you hide inside under your feet, and the bit of force that pierces out from your smoldering stares and from your dreams will soil itself in the face of the filth of time, matter, and men. You'll have a compost heap for a stage and your tribune will be an instrument of torture. You'll only be allotted a leprosy-infected glory and a crown of drool. Feh, you would try to walk alongside those to whom everything is due, for whom all paths are clear? Dust and cinder will rise to bar time's exits to you, will bar the escapes of your dreams. No matter where you turn, your feet will stumble, your voice will only call hymns of filth, and, past your heads which are bent toward your hearts, where only self-pity lives, the breath
of the happy will barely pass -- the happy, those blessed toys of a nameless irony, and just as guiltless as you are!"

Pardon my tortured translation, I've had a few. And cioran wasn't a native French speaker anyway, so pardon his tortured fucking Romanian.

Friday, July 31, 2009

now i think it has gotten worse

If anyone at all was reading this blog, it has lain dormant due to Fate and teeth-kickings. I don't suppose I believe in Fate, but if I did I would seriously suspect that She plans on using me to generate very dark and hopeless writings. Perhaps she wants all of humanity to finally wake up to its dismal pointless condition and commit mass suicide.

By the way, how did all the wealth in the world just disappear? How the fuck did we go into a depression during a war? Who stole all the fucking money, kids? SOMEBODY IS LAUGHING.

I continue to be mesmerized by the horror that is homo sapiens. I highly suspect that if there is somebody behind this mess, they did it just for fun. To see what would happen to everyone else, look down, and laugh.

Well, I suppose we deserve it. Look at us. Just look at us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Do ya FEEL it? I think, higher up, even they can hear it grind: it's the wheel of history, crushing the peasants again. You whined and whined when it crushed your dreams, but the fun's only beginning: wait till it crushes your bones! Ha ha! One likes to tell oneself that at least the wheel will feel sorry when it notices that now there are things it wants to get done, and there aren't any peasants to do it anymore, but SINCE YOU FUCKING MORONS KEEP POURING MORE BABIES INTO THE NIGHTMARE, it ain't ever going to learn its lesson. Not that, lacking a central nervous system, it could have done so anyway. HA HA HA HA HAH HAHAHAHHAHAAHH!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Still alive

To the disappointment and/or indifference of nearly 100 percent of the human race, I haven't hung myself. I've merely been very busy reaping the reward of a youth pissed away in dedication to the literary arts: I've been studying night and day to pass the training exams at a corporate restaurant, where decisions regarding my progress toward the right to wear a baseball cap and be tip-stiffed by subnormals who can't properly read a menu are routinely made by people who are A. Ten years my junior, and B. Invariably more drunk from the night before than I am.

Yeah, last night I was held back a training stage (which means losing 4-5 days' work, and probably being stuck with lousy shifts till I 'prove myself,' ie forever) for hitting two incorrect buttons on a touch screen. I wanted to grab my youthful trainer's collar and scream, "YOU WRITE A COMIC NOVEL THEN! GO ON! WRITE A FUCKING COMIC NOVEL IF I'M SO GODDAMNED INFERIOR!" But I couldn't really grab his collar, since he was wearing a t-shirt, so I pretended to be a good sport. And to ignore the fact that the shift had kicked off with a lecture on how there was too much server error being committed by people who were already full servers. No punishment, mind you. No loss of income or status. But for NEWBIES (even when I'm not one, I detest and want to kill people who use that word), there's no quarter. Typical humans: once you're in, you're in. If you aren't inside the circle yet, show any weakness and WE will tear your throat out.

(Ah, well. At least, once I'm finished with training hell, I will be able to GO HOME ON MY OWN TIME AND DO WHAT I WANT. Fuck you, academia, fuck you still. I guess I'm not really mad at the young trainer; I'm still enraged by my former employer. I shouldn't be starting over at this point in my life. The years these kids are giving to perfecting their table-waiting skills, I pissed away at a 'liberal' newspaper where promotions and permanent careers as a journalist were only ever a real possibility for those to the manner born. So fuck you too, journalism; fuck you harder. I want to be the real thing anyway, not a professional cocktail-partier with a tape recorder.)

(Funny: up till this humiliation, I had been feeling the fine sensation of being back in the polis with all my heart. I hope the anger dies quickly. It was nice to feel well for a little while.)

Anyway. I'm working on a pair of articles on a 2005 Philip Larkin biography for FISTAGBLOG, but paying gigs take precedence at the moment: see the tale of my first day in retraining for the restaurant industry at

Philip won't disappoint you, the poor dead humiliated antinatalist bastard. If I ever catch up on my day humiliations. The trick is to pretend you're watching a movie. The more stupid shit that happens to you, the funnier the movie becomes, yes? Ha ha.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Shit like this is why I'm going blind... usually such false fanciness makes me want to stab the student in the eye, but at least it's funny:

One of the first women mentioned in the novel is Meroe, a witch who runs an inn whom Socrates stays in.

Imagine reading hundreds of essays that are written like this... I'm feeling sort of psychotic, I've been at it all afternoon... GODDAMNIT OBAMA, DO NOT SEND EVEN STUPIDER PEOPLE TO COLLEGE! WORRY ABOUT THE DAMNED HIGH SCHOOL KIDS! BY THIS POINT IT'S TOO... FUCKING... LATE!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ethics, Shmethics -- this is why I'm not going to finish grad school, part two

OK, time for a direct quote from a student. I'm sick of protecting the guilty. And anyway, I'm not going to tell you this little fuck-tard's name. Lucky him! Because here is a prime sample of the shit that lands in an average public-university TA's e-mail every godforsaken day of the semester:

| Hello i am emailing you because of my last exam grade. It says i got a 27 but i dont know how i could of scored that low. I thought i knew evewrything. Would i be able to stop by and see my exam by any chance. Thank you for your time.

Uh huh. Are you going to thank me for my time by giving me some money to make up for the freelancing work I am not going to be able to do because I have to come in and deal with your bullshit on what's supposed to be my day 'off' (i.e. moonlighting day, since the state doesn't see fit to pay me enough to live on -- too busy subsidizing the FUCKING BREEDERS who go on creating more wastes of air like you)? Nah, I didn't think so. You're just going to show up in my office ten minutes before our appointment and bitch at me for worrying you because I was only five minutes early and oh goodness, you would have wasted your time if you'd left before I got there!

I don't know how I could of agreed to take this job. I thought i knew evewrything.

(My god, that e-mail is a lapidary treasure of hubris!)

At least it's almost over. I can go back to waiting tables, so I can have money left after the bills, some unadulterated free time to write, and customers who don't demand that I come in on my days off to discuss why they're so goddamned stupid.

Not a noble calling? Hey, I've already written my academia novel. Now we shall spy on the human race at large as it unwittingly struts its stuff before the servants. (The first time I tried this, my own ego hadn't fully congealed, and I spent more time licking my wounds than analyzing the data.) Any academic research I would do would be read by ten people, and the rest of my time would be spent torturing and being tortured by mouthbreathing adolescents.

So goodbye, undergraduates of the world, and here's a word of advice: either shut up and do your schoolwork, or shut up and go be half-assed somewhere else. Not all of the time and money you're wasting belongs to other people; this is your nasty surprise and my consolation.

Ah... but really... is there any consolation for wastes of life? When I think of how isolated and peerless and glum I have been since I left Chicago I feel afraid at how much it must have changed me. No one will even recognize me. In a week I'll be wandering around the city like a ghost, unable to speak through the wall to anyone, and not really giving a damn -- it's only more soul death, after all. If they recognized me they'd only want to break the glass cage around my heart, and the fragments would rattle around and kill me. In Carbondale, my prison till next week, it has been raining every day for what seems like decades. And I still have hundreds of undergraduate essays to go. I thought i knew evewrything.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pirates, part twaaaar.

Seriously, though, I can't get over this pirate thing. I'm not so much taken aback by the fact that there are still pirates, but -- to paraphrase They Might Be Giants -- where the fuck's my jet pack? Are you reading this shit? The pirates are attacking conventional, earthbound, seafaring vessels with... a skiff.


I give up. I read Evan Dorkin's space-pirate comics when I was an adolescent. I was resigned to a universe peopled by glamourous brigands in ska outfits, just so long as they attacked me while I was flying between galaxies on some noble mission in a space cruiser with a nice warm swimming pool. Jesus fucking christ, I want my fantasies back. Seriously, if the Christians are allowed to walk around in their own little fictional world, why can't I? I'm going to go fall asleep in front of Doctor Who now, and dream of the day when he shows up to take me adventuring. Wake me when someone destroys the earth with a herd of elephants. On second thought... don't bother, my final nightmare will probably be more interesting.

(Anything would be more interesting than dying of swine flu... can you think of two less glamourous words for Armageddon? I mean, besides 'mad' and 'cow'... "Help, help, I'm being killed by Tipper Gore!"...)

Snapshot of current events, yaaaaar.

PIRATES! (Slaps self in face, giggling hysterically.)

FUCKING PIRATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pompey Magnus told us TWO THOUSAND FUCKING YEARS AGO that he had this shit under control.

Fucking politicians, man.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I talk about politics too much, but what the hell, it's intrinsically funny

Goddamn it, I said I wanted this blog to have a topic besides my smashing novels, but I didn't mean for that topic to become politics. It's just that... well... so I'm reading Barack Obama's autobiography, and after a while you feel more like you're reading a good novel than a politician's autobiography, and start wanting to have a beer with the main character. (Steve Sailer found the to-be president's writing style obtuse and wandering, which confuses me since I found it to be the opposite; his analysis of the book's content is lucid enough that I worry whether this means I'm obtuse and wandering myself and don't even know it. Shit. This is, after all, a parenthetical.) It feels incredibly strange to have a likable, thinky fellow in such a high position. After the past few years, it feels positively unnatural. (Still, weird as it is, I hope he gets re-elected: the last thing I need is, within four years, to have a former president who can write getting into the novels market. When that kind of shit starts happening, any novelist who isn't well established already is going to drown.)

As a politician, the thing that excites me about Obama is actually kind of sad, when you think about it: what he's doing is his job. He's doing it with unprecedented energy and decency, of course, but when you come down to it all he's doing is HIS JOB. And we're EXCITED about it. After eight years of the President not doing his job, we're all dewy-eyed over the fact that, when high-paid officials at companies that are bailed out with public money get huge bonuses, the leader of our country actually has the balls to try to get the money back instead of winking, nudging and asking for his cut. Oh, blessed light, will the Catholic Church allow a communiss to be named a saint? He's like the nice boyfriend who comes after the one who beats you up. "Sweetie didn't hit me once this year, I think he must be an angel from Planet Love God!" "The president won't give the auto companies more money till they start making cars that won't choke us all to death? WOW! I BET HE CAN FLY!"

Still, it's really nice to see him do stuff like cozy back up to France. (And it can't be easy, after all -- President Sarkozy seems about as easy to snuggle as an angry sea cucumber. Carla Brunetti must spray herself with Teflon before bed.) Yes, it can be such fun to make fun of the French, I guess, if you don't know how to make real jokes, but don't let's forget: the rivalry we share with them is sibling rivalry.

Why is it so hard for Americans to remember that most of the Greek and Roman ideas -- not to mention the Age of Enlightenment spin-offs -- which form the foundations of our democracy were funneled directly from French thinkers through the likes of Benjamin Franklin? Why in God's name do we make French jokes instead of British jokes? And why can't our collective consciousness hang on to the fact that it was aid from France that let us win the Revolutionary War?

My guess is it's the same reason the French are grumbly about being beholden to us for WWII. Our ideals were formed around the same time; the modern form of both countries arguably came into being around the same time (with more fits and starts on their part, but we did have legal slavery till 1865, and Caesar Napoleon has been comedy gold for so long that in the end the detour was probably worth it); basically, we're brothers. And I'll be DAMNED if I'm going to admit that my younger/older brother beat up the bully for me!

Of course, not all of us feel this way. One of my favorite Inspirational Moments in History was when U.S. General Pershing arrived on the scene in WWI and shouted to the disspirited French troops: "Lafayette, nous voici!" (Lafayette, here we are!) I get teary whenever I think about it.

In case you're scratching your head: Have you ever noticed that goddamned EVERYTHING in the U.S. is named Lafeyette? Ever wonder why? Lafeyette was a French noble at the time of our revolutionary war who really, really believed in the ideals of the Enlightenment. In fact, he loved them so much -- and felt so sympathetic toward Americans, presumably -- that instead of sitting on his ass and fucking the maid, he got on a ship (in an era when just getting across the ocean was a likely way to die) and, before the French crown had even decided to send help (presumably to annoy the British in the main, since they were still the crown), went with his own men to fight for the rebels. So when it came time for Pershing to come and return the favor, he signaled it for what it was: Lafeyette, we've come to repay your generosity and courage! OK, you're dead now, but it's the thought that counts!

Of course, many Americans hate the French because they think the French hate us, which is merely a cultural misunderstanding. Yes, they do bitch about us an awful lot, which sounds rude to us; we kind of like to walk around with these shit-eating grins on our faces and pretend that everything everybody does is just ducky. I think this may have something to do with the fact that more of us carry guns. If you criticize somebody in America, you're implying that you generally don't like them and don't care if they resent you. You might also be suicidal.

The French, on the other hand, bitch as a means of displaying affection. Have you ever listened to a bunch of French people bitch about France? Oh, my god, if you didn't know better you would think they were talking about a horde of barbarians that had invaded and enslaved them. "The French can't learn foreign languages, the French are neurotic, the French are too hidebound, the French can't run a company, the French can't make the trains run on time [absolute lie, unless there's a strike], the French make annoying noises when they eat, the French are driving me mad..." Holy crap, France -- who are these French people and why don't you kick their asses back to wherever they came from?

They bitch about their country because they love her, and they want her to improve (how the interior walls of the bar are going to solve the social ill upon which the patrons and staff are expounding is beyond me, but once again it's the thought that counts). Connect the dots: they bitch about America for the same reason. After 9/11 I visited some friends in Paris; it was Christmas, and the French were still in a state of shock and horror. You'd think it had happened to them. (But not to those French bastards. Then they'd be partying in the streets.)

When they bitch about us, I don't think it occurs to most of them that we may be hurt by their loving abuse. They just want to help. They didn't tell us to stay out of Iraq out of surrender-monkey spite; they were probably hoping that we would risk our troops' lives in a place that was already a hotbed of terrorism. Sure, there are French people who hate everyone else based on general jingoism, but they've hardly got an exclusive patent on that vice. They need our massive democratic population to protect them, and we need our older brother to tell us when we're being adolescent loons. Repairing our relationship with our oldest allies is, once again, part of Obama's job.

But the British, however... he's too goddamn nice to them, them and their lousy aristocratic protocol. (I'm referring to the humorless ones, of course; surely Eric Idle and Matt Lucas find it as silly as I do.) Are you following this crap about how Obama should be made to walk the plank because he shook their queen's hand with two hands instead of one? Oh, god, they'll never recover from the emotional scarring. Can't they just be happy and smug that our last President sold us to their banks? (Or is it China that owns our war debt? Or Bill Gates? Myehhh...) The French fought a war so we wouldn't have to memorize all this bull-pucky. We need to use our brains for more useful shit, like NFL stats. And popping caps in the Nazis. If Their Serfnesses want to pitch a fit because our First Lady hugged their queen BACK (instant replay shows this to be the case, pbbbt) then they can stick it where the sun don't set. The Crown is not the boss of us anymore.

The banks, on the other hand... well, Mr. President, I suggest you think of a nicer gift than a bloody Ipod when you have tea with those guys, huh?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is this going to be a running gag? That'll require at least two more reps.

I was getting curious, so I googled:

1,270 hits for "Slick Bill" in quotes;

11,000 for "Slick Barry" in quotes.

1,530, 000 for a general search on Slick Clinton;

1,910,000 for Slick Obama.

Just as I suspected: recycled uses now top virgin taunts. Christ, even the epithet-manufacturing industry is in a recession! There are even Web pages where people giggle about how Obama is supposed to look like Curious George. Hang on... hadn't we already decided George Bush looked like Curious George? AND HIS NAME IS GEORGE, DON'T YOU GET IT? DUH!

Cuz it's all about names, right? Some of the articles on Slick Barry boil down to this: WHAT IS HIS NAME, MAN? WHAT'S HIS REEEEAL NAME? HE USED TO BE BARRY! NOW HE'S BARACK! OH MY GOD WE'RE ALL DOOMED!

Is that why Bill was slick, too? Because his real name is William BUT HE ASKED US TO CALL HIM BILL???? That HORSE-FUCKER! I guess this means my cousin Frank, who was known as Frankie when he was a kid, is in on the plot. He did just shave his head, I guess. Then again, he shaved it for some children's charity thing that I was too cheap to shell out for. But I could definitely see him conspiring to... oh, I dunno, to recycle stuff. But not jokes. FRANKIE WOULD NEVER RECYCLE A JOKE. THAT IS STRICTLY FOR COMMIES. Oh wait, "Slick Billarry" (OH MY GOD! BARRY AND HILARY HAVE THE SAME TWO LAST LETTERS! HELP! HELP!) is coming from the right, not the left... HANG ON! IF YOU HATE COMMUNISM, THEN WHY ARE YOU RECYCLING? WE KNEW YOU WERE ALL MIAMA CUBANS! DOUBLE AGENCY! DOUBLE AGENCY! CURSES!

I'm not sure whether this is I find this highly entertaining because it's so absurdly weak-assed, or highly dull because it's so repetitive. C'mon, right-wing nut jobs. You can do better than that. People depend on you for original laffs. I like wordplay myself, but just repeating crap isn't wordplay, it's an OCD. Bo-ring!

A ray of hope: I did recently read an anonymous blog post claiming that Obama is an alien and that he caused the tsunami. YES! Whoever that wingnut is, I salute heshit! Absurdity with substance! The rest of you need to get in line. You all sound like fuggin' Foucault! And if that ain't a commie name, I don't know what is.

But seriously, folks: Mayhap they are avoiding insane claims of would-be substance because they're afraid they'll go to jail. Check out this post on the Hoover Hog web site if you would be curious re: the mystery of the missing wingnuts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Academia is rather more a living hell than an ivory tower, but some academics are cool.

OK, I'm glad the new president has kept his campaign promise to pronounce nuclear 'nuclear' and fight for the little guy, or at least try, but I was sort of groaning during his state of the union speech when he announced that part of what 'fighting for the little guy' means is making sure all little U.S.-lings that anyone decides to poop out have the opportunity to go to college, because you can't get by in today's world without higher education.

That's nice. I sure as hell wish that when I decided to get a degree as an adult, somebody had already fixed the system so I won't be an indentured servant when I go back out into the cold, cold world. But did it occur to him that, even with tuition taken care of, allowing/forcing kids with less-than-brilliant minds to go into what used to be higher education is not the best thing for everyone concerned?

For starters, it isn't necessary. Think about how much brain power the average person's job takes. Washing dishes, for example. I used to do that. I could use ninety percent of my mind for thinking about elves and sex and listening to music and still get the job done just fine. It was great, actually, except for the low pay and no insurance. You wouldn't even need to read to be a dishwasher, much less write a college essay! Granted, not a lot of people want to be dishwashers. But the dishes need to get done, and if you're the guy who's going to wind up washing dishes anyway, isn't it a bit cruel to ask you to spend four years sitting in a desk feeling stupid first?

But that's an extreme example. Take a 'higher' function: newspaper work. I was hired by a newspaper with a sensible hiring policy when my only degree was from a high school in a hick town, and I did the job just fine (well, I didn't get fired, anyway). I had learned proper English from reading science-fiction novels; there was no reason for me to sit in a classroom and learn biology and math and all of the other crap classes they need to force students though in order to test their level of obedience and ability to swallow shit. Haven't kids learned enough shit-swallowing by the time they get out of high school? If they haven't, they'll be adept after about ten minutes on the job. Like my dad used to say, "That's why they call it work." Most desk jobs are just as mind-numbing and repetitive as the jobs they threaten you'll be stuck in if you don't piss away four years of your fleeting youth -- the only thing, as Wilde said, worth having -- paying to do something you don't want to do instead of getting paid.

The only reason I went to get my degree was because I sprouted a crazy-stoopid love for the ancient Greek and Roman world; when I realized Greek and Latin were difficult enough that I wouldn't be able to learn them myself, I took a deep breath and looked into student loans.

Well, that love has died. Thanks, grad school! See, when I got me bachelor's last spring and began peering back into the work world, my professors asked me if I wanted to stay on for a year and work for them as a teacher's assistant. My school is too shitty to have a graduate program in classics, but they said they would help me apply to real schools, and I wouldn't have to go back to waiting tables or monkeying copy. Ever.

I hate this college town with a passion, but stupidly I said yes. My professors here are funny, clever, kind people who are fun to be around. And despite having busted my ass to get the undergraduate degree (even with a teacher, Greek is really, really fucking hard, not to mention Sanskrit), I still had the idea, common in our anti-intellectual culture, that academics live a charmed life of sitting on their asses, occasionally lifting a finger to turn a page.


Yeah, I've sat on my ass a lot, but the top half of me has been hunched over a desk, and my arms have been milling frantically as I try to get this last hundred tests graded before I can't stand it anymore and my brain forces me to drink myself to sleep.

This semester hasn't been so bad, because I've given up, so I don't do my own homework, which frees up enough time, as Bukowski said, to scratch my ass (and get it out of the chair often enough for the bedsores to recede). Also, my position is only half-time, which means I only get paid half of peanuts, but I only have one group of 300 students to pile on me instead of two, so I can go back to a bit of freelance writing, which gets much closer to paying me the legal minimum wage.

But last semester was pure 19th-century shit, except the air quality in the library was (slightly) better than what Upton Sinclair reported. Seven days a week, and I am not exaggerating (I know I exaggerate, but this is the horrible truth) I would get out of bed full of dread, knowing that I would have to start working the minute I got up, and would have to keep working till late in the evening, and I would still fall into bed way, way behind, negating the possibility that I could ever take, say, a Saturday to catch my breath.

Week after week after week after week after week after week after week after week.

Naturally I wound up having a nervous breakdown. I'm too old for this, for starters. And maybe there are some grad students who do have cushy positions. Film students, maybe. I should have gone into film. But if you have to spend any real time on your own homework, the 30 hours you're already spending on grading and shit-work on average (not to mention going to all your classes AND attending the ones you're teaching AND hanging out after those classes so the students can come up in a long line and ask you questions that are already clearly answered on the syllabus) are going to kill you dead.

One could perhaps tolerate this way of life if the shit-work taught one anything (besides the insight into how stupid most adolescents are), or at least if it didn't take so long. But you try picking up the pace when you're grading essays written by kids who can't conjugate English verbs. Or who think Zeus is real, and conflate him with Jesus. (Yes, one of the little darlings actually did this. I wonder which of the scary windowless churches in Carbondale he goes to.) Maybe one out of every 50 essays has a clear thesis supported by non-made-up evidence; one out of 200 has a scrap of entertainment value that's intentional. You try to find places where you can legitimately grant people points, if only so you have fewer complaints to deal with when the grades are released, but trying to be fair and consistent about this is satanically time-consuming.

Here's where I finally get to my point: even before Obama's well-meaning program takes effect, there are already far too many kids who are far too stupid to be going to college who have been pushed into it.

Maybe it's because the kids at the school where I teach aren't from particularly privileged backgrounds, but I dunno. If you are a child who has the I.Q. and the intellectual curiosity to belong in HIGHER EDUCATION, then you are going to find a way to develop a reasonable level of literacy just about anywhere in the industrialized world. I learned to read in central Wisconsin; George W. couldn't even learn to talk at Yale... in a system of compulsory basic education, you don't suppose it might have something to do with hardware? I somehow doubt the TAs at Harvard are having a blast reading three hundred freshman essays either.

And if you don't possess intelligence and curiosity, what the fuck are you doing in a Roman Civ class? I guess you're hoping to get to see Gladiator while you jump through the hoop.

I feel kind of sorry for the kids sometimes. They like to drink on top of being stupid; they're going to wake up with a terrible hangover, flunked-out and pursued by large loan payments. But most of the time I just want to scream at them to quit wasting everybody else's mental energy. The other week a girl decided to waste my time by demanding a conference with me outside my regular office hours to discuss why she wasn't doing better on the exams.

I asked her, "Do you take notes when you read the texts?"


"Uh... I'm sorry, are you too broke to buy the books?" (This is a legit problem sometimes, though the kids who really give a damn can use the campus computers to get Cicero or Caesar in translation on Gutenberg.)

"Oh, no, no, I have them." I'm thinking, Er, what are you using them for exactly? when she hits me with the punch line: "Reading just isn't my thing."

I'm not quite sure how I managed not to stomp on her foot.

And my job, shit-dealing-wise, is relatively easy compared to what the professors go through. I get most of the boring grading work, but Real Teacher is head of the complaints department. They seem OK with it most of the time, but once in a while you can smell the strain. Complaints, threats to take it to the department head, attempts to cut deals, four or five dead grandmothers... the stream of whining kids who just want to be left alone to drink beer instead of going to class that flows in and out of their offices while they're trying to parse the ancient mysteries is astounding. Last semester somebody claimed he was going to have to donate multiple internal organs to his cousin.

I want to work two jobs plus trying to write for six years so I can achieve that? Uh, I'll just wait tables and scribble, thanks. If all the subnormals who would rather be having unprotected sex are helped/forced to either go to school or shovel radioactive slime for a living, it's only going to get worse.

Even if you are smart and curious, you can only take so much of the extraneous bullshit that institutional learning fosters. Not to mention the fact that intellectual curiosity is usually a general compulsion, an urge that wants to poke its nose into everything, not just its favorite topic. Believe you me, if you spend too much time being forced to research your favorite topic exclusively (in grad school there's no time or energy for outside pursuits any more demanding than Monty Python and beer) you're going to start to hate it. This hurts. You feel hollowed out. And the day you arrive on the job for which you are now overtrained, it's already a familiar prison.

Instead of making sure everybody goes to college, and making lots of cranky would-be academics like me go insane and drop out -- and have the government pay us to do it, not to mention paying for all the extra classroom space, lost productivity from potential workers who are spending four years pretending they can read, and student sports facilities -- why doesn't somebody set up a government Office of Job-Requirement Non-Lunacy? It wouldn't cost nearly as much as putting all these kids whose thing isn't reading through four years of hell for them and hell for their instructors. You just send a couple of agents per city to go through the want ads and ticket the employers who are pushing the diploma inflation.

Agent Tom: Hm... OK, the hospital wants a surgeon with a PhD.

Agent Bill: Pass.

Tom: The high school wants a French teacher with a PhD.

Bill: Bzzzzt! Tell 'em to take anyone with at least a bachelor's into consideration, and then test them to see who can actually speak French. I suppose they can ask for a master's, but then they have to pay extra.

Tom: Next is Tony's Fine Dining. They want a server with experience.

Bill: How the hell is anyone supposed to get experience if everyone needs it? Tell 'em they need to change their ad if they don't want all their employees to be compulsive liars.

Tom: The newspaper wants a reporter with a degree in journalism.

Bill: Which one? That one? Hm... well, I hate those guys, so let 'em demand that and they'll get exactly the assholes they deserve. But the other paper... I like them, so tell 'em no. They should just ask the applicants to sit down and write something.

Tom: Here's Joe's Radioactive Slime-Shoveling Service. They want their applicants to have PhDs in Human Resources.

Bill: Heh heh heh. Good on 'em.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



I was really, really, REALLY looking forward to seeing The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke's comeback film about a pro wrestler making a comeback. If you know me at all well then you know that I used to have rather an enticing gap between my top front teeth. (For another shortie on gap-tooth pride, see the Notes page on Liz Tamny's Facebook account.)

And then I became a mud wrestler. I know what you're thinking... but I was not an 'exotic' mud wrestler. NO! We were serious artists: this was WWF-style grapplin' that just happened to have an extra fun element of slippery mud, plus the traditional accoutrements: costumes, plots, threats, boasts, double back-flips, secret identities --I was the Incognito Mosquito, dressed like a giant bug -- heads beaten with folding chairs, and some serious, adrenaline-pumping PAIN.

Once in a while there was too much pain. The time, for example, when I fell too hard on my face and knocked out my beautiful misaligned fangs. I still don't know what made me sadder: the fact that the bemused dentist didn't even know how to restore gapped teeth on purpose, or the fact that I was asked to hang up my mask and wings. I didn't even have anyone to be angry with. We parted amicably, the Mud Wrestling Organization and I; it was simply decided that I suffered an incurable inability to respect my own physical limitations, and was therefore an insurance liability. I still root for the MWO -- they're still around, by the way, and have a web site; look 'em up, they may have some shows this spring -- but it was rather a stab to the heart.

So ten years later, they say there's gonna be a Mickey Rourke flick with a pro wrestler making a comeback? Oh, boy, I say, painting on some extra thick eyeliner. This is going to be worth walking to the mall! (The only movie theaters in this town are in the no-peds-land of the mall district, reachable only by walking along the highway or, if you're not blind, prone to panic attacks, or particularly concerned about the future, driving your SUV.) And it was worth it, just to see Rourke's performance, certes, as well as to reminisce over the joys of spandex, endorphins, and bleeding all over the place like AIDS never happened.

But two things marred my joy. One of them was my own goddamn problem, or at the limit, the problem of the U.S. Air Force. What Rourke's character, Randy the Ram (better than my moniker, I have to admit) is coming back from is a heart attack, and anything related to heart problems has got to be my number-one neurosis. If I see somebody else clutch at their chest I immediately get chest pains. Whenever I have a stomachache (which is almost always), part of my brain is constantly pulling on the panic cord labeled "BIZARRE SENSATION IN CHEST AREA! DYING DYING DYING!" I still can barely choke down eggs, even though they've figured out that there's something unsticky about their brand of cholesterol. Thanks for ruining a perfectly good foodstuff for me, Air Force.

The reason I blame this on the U.S. Air Force rather than on my parents, who should have NEVER told me that I had a heart murmur as a baby (I was premature, so it was par for the course, and it fixed itself, so there was no reason I had to know), is because the AF lied about my grandfather, whom they drafted when he was very young, and who went on to remain in their employ until he died of his fifth heart attack, at the age of 52. This did not occur because heart disease runs in my family. It was because of a strange heart defect particular to Grampa. (God, my palms are sweating just typing the word 'heart' so many times.) The Air Force doctors knew this; however, if they had told anyone about it they would have had to release him from their service, and he was a very good, uncomplaining, hardworking piece of cannon fodder. So they let everyone in my family walk around thinking our hearts were time bombs. Is it any wonder I didn't give a damn if you broke a window over my head? They didn't release this piece of information till well after my gap was gone, the fuckers. (I suppose we should have figured something was amiss when neither my dad nor any of his eight siblings suffered a heart attack for the next thirty years, but neurosis can eat up a lot of brain space.)

They also waited till my chest-fear was lodged far too firmly in place to ever get anything but temporary relief, from heavy applications of flesh-wounding and/or alcohol. So imagine my willies when I had to sit there watching a method actor do chest pains for two hours. I have never been so fruck out that I had to leave a good movie prior to this, but at some point during the SPOILER ALERT, SORT OF final scene of The Wrestler, closing my eyes didn't work anymore, and I had to stand outside the door and wait till it sounded like things had either turned out all right for the Ram Man, or not.

But all in all, the movie would have been top-notch fucking cool, if it hadn't been for the execrable performance of the lump who played the Ram's estranged daughter. Evan Rachel Wood, as young as she is, already wears the chronically bitchy, moron-being-sarcastic facial expression of a mad divorced suburbanite. So how is she supposed to amp it up to look situationally pissed off at an absentee, mane-bleaching father? I don't know how this rat-faced no-talent got this job, but she completely ruined the scene where she's supposed to be bitching the Ram out for the last time and telling him to go away forever. She doesn't look hurt in it -- she just looks mean. She probably puts sand in her boyfriends' underwear. She looks like her real-life father has been spit-polishing her ass for her with a soft cloth from the word go.

So the day after I see the movie, after a night of forcing everyone in shouting range to listen to me talk about it, I venture back to the Mall Zone to hit the grocery store. And on a tabloid cover in the check-out line I find a dangerous piece of evidence favoring the disfavored science-ish of physiognomy: Hey, Evan Rachel Wood really is kind of mean! Apparently she went to a movie-star party with Mickey Rourke, where he got drunk and pawed her (why he was doing that when he could have been drinking more for free is beyond me, but that's outside the scope of this essay), and people started to speculate that maybe she was seeing him. Her response: "I'm not attracted to him, he's too old for me." Does she have the faintest idea how unprofessional this makes her sound? She is, apparently, not at all turned on by a master of her own supposed craft. And she flaunts it!

OK, fine, so his fingernails in that film looked a little less than pretty. But for all I know he did something to them on purpose to make them look fucked-up because he figured that's the way the Ram's hands would look. That's the point! He's an actor! He's like the Ram -- he will do anything he has to to make the art exactly right! Bitch, you can't even fake-cry without making me laugh, and you think the world is going to give a damn whether you think the master is too old to be sexy? Christ! I'll concede that, if you aren't attracted to somebody, you can't do anything about it. But you're supposed to be an actor! You could have sucked on his ear, gone in the bathroom, gargled some Listerine, pretended you were still hung up on your ex Marilyn Manson (aim your own smart-ass comment at that barrel of fish), purred 'Tempting, but no!' and we would have been none the wiser. Dumbass.

(P.S. Marisa Tomei was pretty terrific in that film, too, but since she didn't say anything stupid nobody seems to be talking about her. Sorry, Marisa.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feel free to mock the Sanskrit periods that showed up in my NPR post now: An ex-proofreader vs. Rick Moody

So I already knew Rick Moody was kind of a cunt; not only did he declare that he didn’t like any of the music-hall stuff on the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, but I was young and dumb enough once to take a college creative writing course, where I was force-fed part of his first novel. This made me feel a little bit less like a cunt myself when I joined the ULA and Karl Wenclas mandated Pavlovian training to make us vomit every time Moody’s name got mentioned; at least I knew what I was vomiting about. But I never had worked up the nerve to read The Ice Storm... until this weekend, when I force-fed it to myself.

See, in my second novel (out late this year on Nine-Banded Books), there also chances to be an ice storm; as a backdrop to my fictional action I was following, with reasonable faithfulness, local and global public events of the winter of 2006-2007, and the damn thing went and occurred. Two of them, actually. It would have been awkward to write around them, so I didn’t. And at some point I gave in to the nagging reality that Moody’s book is, unfortunately, known to enough people that I would have to at least try to turn my ice storm into a bit of a Moody joke, or at least get familiar enough with his text to stop the joke from being on me. So, grumbling, I trudged to the library, because I’ll be damned if I’m giving any money to a so-called Mag Fields fan who can actually suspend his depression long enough to sucker-punch showtunes, for Christ’s sake.

To my relief, not only did Moody not wring all metaphorical possibilities from the subject, he also didn't waste my time completely. Frankly, I expected The Ice Storm to be a lot more boring than it was. Sure, I could have spent that time better. Yes, I had to do some drinking to get all the way through it. But it was nowhere near the torment that followed when I was dumb enough to volunteer to review the second Dave Eggers novel for the Chicago Reader. ( I thought I was going to have to cave my frontal lobes in with a Sanskrit dictionary to get through that one.)

Moody’s second novel was actually entertaining in parts. I laughed out loud once. It even had a reasonably workmanlike structure, despite the occasional mechanical peek through the fourth wall on the part of the pompous narrator (was his pompousness supposed to be funny? Was the tacked-on feeling of these peeks meant as a spoof on the overuse of metafiction? I doubt it); despite the overwritten bits, despite the underwritten ones; despite the pointless concealment of the narrator’s identity as the family’s eldest son and this fact's tiresome revelation at the end (no shit, Holden!)...

OK, so it wasn’t what I would call good. But I had to admit it was better than reading nothing at all. I definitely would not have preferred staring at the wall. And the above are complaints that could be lodged against any number of overrated writers; the experience reminded me that ‘overrated’ is not a shorter way to say ‘devoid of merit.’

And yet, by the time I was finished, I was pissed off and actually kind of shocked. Sure, I laughed once – but that’s nowhere near as often as I choked on a typo. Has nobody else noticed all the errors in this novel? For fuck’s sake, did he publish it himself? My first novel has a couple of typos – but I’m the only one who read it before it went up as a POD, and by the time the sample copy came in the mail I was so goddamn sick of it I didn’t open it for a month. But people presumably got paid to keep Moody from looking stupid. Even my cost-free typos make me feel a bit ill. Did he gasp with horror when he saw the finished work? Did he show up at the publishing house a week after it came out, grab some underpaid copy monkey by the collar, and shake it till its ears rang? (Did the Carbondale university library, which always finds funds for physical refurbishments but not for books, get its copy from the ‘not-quite-perfect’ bin? Always a possibility...)

Actually, part of me hopes he did go in and raise hell. When I was a copy monkey, I would have never gotten away with letting a supposedly major author go to print saying things like “These last eight pages were enough to life Paul Hood from the murky bog of self-recrimination” (p. 193) and “The worse such storm in thirty years, according to Mike Powers, spokesman for Connecticut Light and Power.” Come ON, copy monkey! And come on, Rick! OK, so the first example was almost certainly somebody else’s typo; it’s the kind of thing that happens, however unfortunately. And I suppose ‘worse’ could be meant as a direct quotation from Mr. Powers. But it ain’t in quotes, buddy! Fuck! At least try to look like you know what you’re doing! I know how to use the superlative in eight different languages, you can’t do it in one, and I’m sitting down HERE while you’re sitting up THERE?! Don’t even bother to ponder the mystery of whether there’s a god, Rick. ‘NO’ has left its fingerprints everywhere.

Of course, these are petty errors. Whadya want, I'm an old monkey. I can't stop feeling nebulous Catholic guilt either. I suppose a fan might even consider infractions like 'worse' to be charmingly human (why is ‘human’ so often used as a compliment?). But these are but a representative fraction of the typo-age, and I’ve saved the real fuck-up for last.

Dorothy Halford, the hostess of a suburban key party (which is as tiresome as it sounds) is described, on page 107, in a fashionably incomplete sentence, as: “No makeup.” OK. So she’s a minor character, and you’re trying to say something about her personality with one efficient, tangible detail. And we all slip in the odd incomplete sentence once in a while, especially when we’re trying to remind reviewers of how streamlined and energetic and muscular we are as we move four-gram plastic keys up and down. Fair enough. But we shouldn’t employ techniques like this quite so mechanically, so easily, so... so... so ‘just-how-drunk-were-you, Rick?’-ily that we forget ourselves and, a mere eight pages later, toss off another admirably efficient snapshot of the same character by claiming that “For a moment she was frozen, with her carefully lipsticked mouth open wide...”

I guess we’re to take the fact that she carefully lipsticks her mouth as a slam on her character, since worthy people -- literary geniuses for instance -- are never so clench-pussied as to be careful about anything. I know, I know... my old job as a proofreader doesn’t exist anymore. The general public doesn’t need, want, or care about people who read every line to make sure it’s pretty. I see their point; if an emoticon is worth a thousand love poems, does a missing comma keep anybody who isn’t being deliberately obtuse from catching anyone else’s drift?

But think about it, Dicky. What non-nerd reads novels anymore anyway, now that Hollywood can put Beowulf in an ass-kicking (I say this without a hint of sarcasm) CGI epic? That’s right: a rising proportion of the book audience will now be made of nit-picking shits like me. People to whom typos are as painful as a Bic spattered on a Renoir (even if it’s not actually a Renoir, but Dogs Playing Poker). Think about it. You’ve made your pile, I suppose, and we can’t take that away from you, unless we become exotic dancers. But I’m going to go proofread my new book again now, before carefully attributing an example of ignorant-sounding use of the language to a radio announcer during my own ice storm. Most writers, darling, frozen or not, can’t afford to be floppy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I promised, and I deliver – which would be much more exciting if anyone cared, but at any rate here’s my short but sweet e-mail friendship with an NPR employee who I would bet money was named after Alan Alda।

Attn: book reviewers: John Kennedy Toole reincarnate... briefly

Now, we all might intuit that the parlor pinks of National Public Radio could give a rat’s ass about writers who aren’t already hip and safely encased in a charming Manhattan two-bed -- but now we have proof। Although, as my dear friend Brendan of the Royal Pines told me, “This is a good-e-mail, Ann, but I bet they get crackpot shit like this every day।” (I mention that he’s a dear friend because no other kind of entity that likes heshit’s face arranged the way it is currently should say that kind of thing to a Capricorn।) This is the sole attempt at publicizing my first novel for which I found time in fall 2008, while I was being worked (or working myself – it’s finally occurred to me that the one good thing about the amount of unpaid labor involved in a graduate degree is that, since it’s unpaid, you’re free to flunk or walk away) into a bilious pulp (not to mention butterfly net number three)।

-------------- Original Text -----------------Date : 9/14/2008 11:17:16 AM

Dear NPR,
After my habit of blathering about suicide while in my cups got me chucked in the looney bin twice during the four years it’s taken to get no response at all, from any editor at any level of the publishing industry, to my first novel -- a murder-mystery spoof about, ironically enough, the corruption of the newspaper industry -- (deep breath) I have given up and self-published the poor thing as a POD on Amazon।com। Now I would like to emotionally blackmail you into reviewing it। However, budget considerations such as the rising price of bread and peanut butter make it seem wise to send an e-mail asking whether there’s a chance in hell you’ll read the book before I pay too much money to send you a copy. So RSVP. If you’ve read this far, perhaps you would like to see the ad copy I wrote for Amazon:

“Join Edgar Rodger, a fledgling private eye and former murder-desk rewrite man for a Chicago daily, as he descends into the bizarre world of the city’s favorite artsy-cultural alternative weekly paper. Inspired equally by Wodehouse and Chandler, Girl Detectives lightens the murder-mystery brew with social satire and sick slapstick as it conjures up a fun-house milieu where nobody can seem to be themselves -- not even a corpse. Kimmie Wrigley, a functional illiterate whose family fortune helped her skate into a job as a Chiculture staff writer, was driving her editor to drink when she disappeared. She was also busy stealing a man from Maurinette Meede, the imperious, blue-blooded food critic. But the paper’s proofreaders -- all slightly unhinged by their intellectual dead-end jobs -- also hated the dopey heiress on principle. With so many potential killers, there’s only one thing for Rodger to do: blackmail them till they sign on as deputy detectives and rat each other out.”

If that doesn’t pique your interest, I guess I’ll go work on my second novel -- which is better than Girl Detectives and nearly finished despite my exhausting job, thank you very much -- or cry।

Ann K।F. Sterzinger
Dear Ann,
Thank you for contacting NPR’s All Things Considered.
NPR welcomes the sharing of thoughtful diverse perspectives and occasionally provides on-air "reviews." To submit material for consideration, please send to:
All Things Considered
NPR 635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Please note that a submission does not guarantee an on-air review. Material submitted will not be returned. If we have further questions about your submission, we will contact you.
Thank you for listening to All Things Considered, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit

Alan, NPR Services
NPR invites you to join its audience advisory panel, NPR Listens.Learn more at

Charming, but I never wrote him back. After all, he would never remember which of his crackpot pen friends I was. And anyway, the only thing I could think of to say – well, the only relatively civil thing – would be:

Hey, Alan:
What the fuck are the scare quotes around “reviews” about? Is “spoken” “language” not “really” “language” – or are you saying they’re not actually reviews at all, but mini puff pieces about NPR employees’ kids? Yeah, I thought so। Well, at least you didn’t call the cops...