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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is this just my excuse for apathy?

I've just noticed that I've gradually stopped taking people's political opinions seriously -- well, those of people who tell me they're liberal or conservative anyway. The terms have become such team flags that I can't help thinking that most people who wave them are either A. Saying exactly what their parents taught them, because they're sponges, or B. Saying the exact opposite of what their parents taught them, because they're rebels without a clue.

Just show me the facts. And if there aren't enough facts available for me to make up my mind, and you want to call me a pussy or a waffler or whatever, then change your team shirt, it's smelly with dribble.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What's not to love? Poem for a small mammal.

I'm strolling up Wilson toward the dollar store when I see him.
A very small brown body. What are you, fellow?
I walk closer and he doesn't run away. Tail like a rat, face like a hamster.
Are you a lost gerbil? Are you just pretty vermin?
Anyway he seems like a treat thrown down from the universe
till I get too close...
someone so small
should have run from the great ape by now.

Crap, are you dead? Oh, no, worse; you're dying.
I can see your ribs move in and out, still getting some air,
but there is a persistent fly attached to the side of your nose,
pumping its eggs into your little body before you've even finished using it.
Your eyes are shut, you don't fight, you barely twitch as the proboscis makes its lewd attack,
you're just buckled down to bear the final pain;
a laissez-faire unit
of nature's sick economy.

I should smash you
curtail your agony but
I'm too busy suspecting my own motives, my bloodlust, my own indulgence
to figure out whether that's what you'd really want.

And anyway I just can't: the fur still so appealing, the breath still too alive,
the little eyes so tenderly squeezing, holding the last of yourself to yourself...

... the little mortal hands... I haven't got the guts.

So I get a soft straw of grass -- I love you but you may be dying of a disease; I haven't even got the guts to touch you --

and I sit in the nice patch of sun next to where you are losing your life,

and I pet your tiny back with the straw. I hope I'm not just frightening you, I hope your sudden total stillness is a moment of peace and not more terror, I hope to have given you something in your scanty life, but I am also brushing off the fucking flies, stupidly yelling,


as the bastards smell your defeat and come in a cloud.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On our (sometime) greater humanity toward the non-human

I've been thinking back to a post I read a few months back on Sister Y's blog The View From Hell (see my blogroll) concerning our greater willingness to put a sick and suffering animal out of its misery than we are to show a similar mercy toward, say, Grandma.

These thoughts came bubbling back up due to a cross-reference with the recent article on Antinatalism, the Greatest Taboo (see blogroll again) regarding the controversial activist who's offending people by offering overly fecund and irresponsible drug addicts $300 for permitting her to provide them with free surgical sterilization. I was watching my cat roll around on the floor today, and I wondered why it was OK for me to spay her without her consent (hell no), much less paying her $300, while some consider it 'Nazi-like' to suggest to addicts who have abandoned multiple babies.

Why is it that we tear up and reach for the knife when we think about kittens being born into a world where they'll be unloved, uncared-for, and homeless... but the thought of preventing babies of our own species, who are arguably far less able to care for themselves than young kittens, to be born into a world where they'll be unloved, uncared-for, and foster homed actually pisses people off? Since when is preventing human suffering the province of Orwellian, knee-jerk-response-invoking villains?

What's the deal here?

It seems we either value human life itself more than we value animal life, or we pity animal suffering more than we pity human suffering (unless, of course, that animal is not a pet species but a food animal, in which case it can be stuffed in a tiny box and roll in its own feces amid a cloud of flies until it's big enough for us to eat it, as long as we don't have to witness this or, even worse, butcher it ourselves).

Or is it both? That doesn't seem to be a logical answer; if we feel our species-mates' lives are intrinsically worth more than the lives of an unborn kitten, then why wouldn't we feel greater empathy for their pain? So even if our empathy for other humans' pain outstrips that which we feel for even the cutest of fuzzy creatures, we're willing to let them suffer as long as it means they have lives. WHY?! Is it because other humans' existence, as miserable as it may be, somehow fulfills our need to feel that somebody somehow will continue our existence or consciousness in some way after we die? This answer, if true, is horrifying: we want our fellows to suffer because it gives our lives meaning.

Oh well, at least we've spayed a few cats. Have lots of kids, maybe they'll buy my books!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Prayer to Nothing for the Only Prize

The loved one's face
Will change with age.
Let it stay beloved;
Let my heart have been in the right place.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feeling bleak, messin' with Google

If there is a meaning I've made up for my life, if only to keep myself from resenting loved ones for whose sake I refrain from jumping off a bridge, it's the pleasure of consuming and (when I can) making written and recorded distractions -- confections or truth-scouring, they all give pleasure, even if it is the pleasure of grinding your face in God's fecal accident. So sometimes when I feel really shitty, I Google phrases that I hope someone's written something about. "Monsters of Consciousness" yielded this guy, whose intense loopiness is delightful for about 30 seconds or so:

But the real comedy gold didn't enter the building till I stole his "[enter entity] is the way" formula (his chosen entity was money; still not sure if he was kidding or not) and typed in Juvenal, the Roman satirist.

Juvenal is my favorite poet ever, probably. He's the root of most of what I hold dear in literature; I'm sure every fan of his through the ages has probably thought the same thing, but he makes me feel that, though humanity is corrupt and suffering in every century, it was in his time and then again in mine that men were most extremely punished for their virtues and rewarded for their vices. Snivel.

So, with high hopes, I typed in "Juvenal is the way," hoping to find a kindred soul who hasn't already passed through the bowels of a million generations of worms. (Although it would be kind of hilarious if a molecule or so of what used to be Juvenal turned up in Carla Bruni's bottle of lube, eh?)

Well, I didn't get any hagiographies... I got something funnier. I got this:

Juvenal Hall: it's where they put the leering, white marble busts of wayward teens. Something tells me this might not seem so funny if I weren't so tired, but ah well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yes, Virginia, we are freaked the fuck out by our mortality.

Fainting; seizures
Incision through abdominal muscles
Loss of heartbeat
Elevated blood pressure, risk of stroke
Life-threatening hemorrhage
Torn urinary bladder
Broken tailbone
Cut or torn flesh (your choice) between genitals and rectum
Compressed intestines
Severe pain
Rearrangement of abdominal organs
Creation of sufferers of diseases, mental illness, and pain
Shitting the bed

What is all this shit? The list of tortures shown in a horror film about Nazis? The aftermath of a hurricane? The do-do list of a mad scientist who's broken into a girls' school? The last one is pretty close...

These are the horror stories I got to hear from my perfectly healthy -- or so they told me -- female cousins all last weekend about something they did to themselves on purpose. Some of them TWO OR THREE TIMES.

I am talking, of course, about the beautiful, natural process of childbirth. (Let's keep in mind the fact that heart attacks, cancer, earthquakes, and the fundamentally frail and destructible nature of the human form are all natural.)

I went to teh olde summer famblee reunion against my better judgment, you sam, and my cousins and I seem to be around the age when every female's biological clock except mine is said to be yelling at them. Although I'm not so sure it's a biological clock that's yelling at people... maybe it's more like a potential gramma.

Or first sure glimpses of personal mortality.

I know some people will let physicians do gross and painful non-birth stuff like liposuction to them out of (I guess?) vanity or a feeling of professional obligation... but I suspect a lot of cosmetic procedures come about because the sag of your once-glorious ass is a painful visual reminder that you're going to decay entirely one day. But, gross as it is, plastic surgery isn't the least rational way to deal with the fear of death: at least a nose job won't tear your bladder or make you shit the bed in front of a room full of people. Sure, people die from liposuction, but at least the survivors don't get post-partum depression.

There are all kinds of reasons, I suppose, for having a baby -- tax breaks, boredom, the nagging insistence of people who believe the childfree to be selfish (click on Jim Crawford's antinatalist blog on my blogroll over there at the side, where he and other contributors repeatedly spare me the trouble of refudiating* that bass-ackwards notion), masochism, etc... but I think the really big one is that old fear of mortality.

"You mean I'm going to end someday? No more me? I just... go away? And the universe goes on without me? I never get to see what happens? I'm not part of the future? Oh god... wait, you're dead... oh, DNA, make a mini-me, please, I don't want to die! Don't let me go away, I'll miss me!"

I don't know about you, but I've had those panic attacks myself, and they're really the only reason I would ever let a kicking, grabbing, growing animal hang out right under my goddamned liver and feed off my bloodstream for nine months. Did I mention the fact that even once those nine months are over, it takes another year for your digestive organs to move back to where they're supposed to live? And yet women who have already gone through this once will come back for another round, just in case mini-me #1 dies early or goes sterile!

It kind of makes your mind spin -- the madness of risking an early death, while assuring yourself of pain, discomfort, and invasive changes to your very flesh... just to half-assure yourself of a kiiiiiiiiiiinda immortality, of which you will have no personal direct consciousness.

That, kids, is how powerfully we fear our own extinction. But what are you doing, ladies, when you go through this pain to assuage your fear? You run a 51% risk of creating a daughter -- a creature who's just as badly fucked by Mother Nature as you are. Sure, men are mortal as well, but at least they don't have to risk large chunks of their lives in order to earn a false sense of connection to the living future. It's just one more evil joke on the part of Mother Nature, that these infinitesimally luckier creatures are slightly less likely to be the fruit of your misery. The lesser of two evils is to bear the full brunt of your fear of death yourself. Have a heart. Don't make another woman who has to choose between the chance of an emergency c-section and a more direct look at the abyss.

*The ever-frightening Sarah Palin, channeling Shakespeare, as she claimed, recently invented this word; if there were cosmic justice, it would insist that if you ever cast a vote for her you will happen to be standing under one of the nuclear warheads she would accidentally launch whilst trying to ring for coffee her first day in the Oval Office.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Chicago public transport system used to be content to just make me late.

That really used to piss me off. But now that it's tried to kill me, I think I'll be able to put non-near-lethal delays in perspective.

Tell me, what's worse than walking six or seven miles to the library because you only want to splurge on the inflated el fee one way and you figure you'll be more tired coming home, then getting on the train when you're ready to come back, plunging into the best-looking of the books you've checked out, and almost instantly being interrupted by the loudspeaker announcement that you're being delayed due to a small fire on the subway track, and looking up and realizing that the air is beginning to fill with greenish-black smoke, and putting your shirt over your nose as it starts to smell like a cross between a tire fire and Satan's hangover breath, and getting dizzy anyway, and then not being able to see more than two seats in front of you, and realizing that you're stuck 100 meters underground and have no idea how many side tunnels lead out of the main tunnel -- not that you can safely bail out of the car anyway, since god knows what's going on out there, and now the train has begun to crawl along, and the conductor promises you're going to be released at the next station, but then the car stops again, and then it starts again, and then as orange flames sweep down the sides of the car you realize that the conductor is driving the train through the goddamned fire, or else you have died already and the train is taking you to Hell, and you should have listened to your grandmother -- but since your lungs feel so terrible you kind of suspect you are alive, for the moment, and now you wonder exactly how you're going to die, since asphyxiation, poisoning, being burned alive, or simply dying of the panic attack you feel coming on (for once it makes sense!) all seem to be more or less equally viable candidates, and you're wishing you could store oxygen in your body tissues somewhere for use when you can't breathe, in the same way you can store calories for use when you can't eat, and you suppose evolution will have to throw humanity a few more million tunnel fires before we'll make that adaptation, and hopefully we'll have died out by that point anyway -- if the idiots who are clamoring for the conductor to open the doors (so the smoke can get in faster, derrrrrr) are any indication, it won't be long before we shoot ourselves in our last remaining foot -- and shit, isn't it going to suck to die this way, and since you're in the tunnel and can't get reception you can't even send anyone a goodbye e-mail, and jesus christ I never noticed how claustrophobic the subway is before, if anyone survives they'll have a great idea for a horror movie I'll bet, and then as far as you can tell in the smoke the train seems to have finally pulled into the station, but before the doors open the power goes off? Huh? What's worse than that, you ask?

Well, at least up to this point, we have all been in it together. But when people start figuring out that even with the power off we can open the doors by pulling the safety knob, it's every lung for itself. And the lungs nearest the only reachable (broken) escalator are up near the ground and the breathable air (relatively breathable; this is Chicago, after all, but right now a face full of diesel exhaust would taste like a mountain breeze) before the rest of us can even get within seeing distance of its heavenly light. The escalator is only two people wide, so everybody lined up in back is going to have a few more minutes' wait before our oxygen feast.

So what do the first people to get to the escalator do? WHAT DO THESE ASSHATS DO, I ASK YOU?! Do they panic and cause a riot? Do those of us in the rear start a scrambling row? Oh no, nothing happens that's as understandable as that. This is the glorious 21st century, and we are all angels of ADD. Forgetting their so recent terror, not to mention the continuing terror of those behind them, the first waves of people to reach the upper world START SLOWING DOWN THE MINUTE THEY CAN BREATHE, HALFWAY UP THE FUCKIN ESCALATOR, SO THEY CAN DIG OUT THEIR PHONES AND START SENDING PEOPLE TEXT MESSAGES!!!!

Uh... human race? Hello? Hello? What are you thinking when you do things like this? Mom doesn't need to be assured that you're safe yet -- this only started thirty minutes ago, and even if anything's hit the TV she probably doesn't know exactly which red line run you were on, unless you're such a mama's boy you actually text her shit like that. Your boss doesn't need to know you're going to be late until you actually start being late, and your friends don't need to know (ASNAP!)what an amazing cool unique thing you just survived... because it ISN'T THAT FUCKING SPECIAL. It's just another near-death experience; people have them all the time; quite often they swing so near they actually fall in.

But the rest of us down here do in fact need something: AIR! WE NEED AIR, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!

When we finally made it out, there were people from the train that was nearest the ignition point stumbling around with their faces covered in greasy black crap; about ten ambulances were already on the scene, and a few really messed-up people were being strapped to stretchers. I hung around for a while hoping we'd be offered some sort of free shuttle bus to get where we were going, but that was just the smoke inhalation thinking for me -- why would the CTA fail to charge you double when now they're going to have to find a way to pay to clean up and fix the antiquated disaster they call a train?

Then again, I seriously doubt they're going to really fix it; according to the report that's now up on the Trib's site, fires like this happen all the time. The wooden ties (I can hear Western European cities laughing at us now; yes, people, we do still use 19th-century technology, we just hoist it up in places on these rickety crumbling concrete pillars to give it that Disney city-of-the-future look, but actually we lost the Olympic bid to Rio because of SKULLDUGGERY) get soaked with fuel, and then when it's warm out and the train throws sparks, BOOM. It's just that usually it doesn't happen in the tunnels. I guess flaming, compromised wooden ties on an elevated track aren't quite as bothersome as people breathing burning creosote in an enclosed space, so they've never really given the problem much thought before.

At any rate, although I had only managed to wring about a mile's progress out of my el fare, I was feeling too stubborn to give them any more of my money (and too loopy to dig it out of my pockets and count to $2.25 anyway), so I walked all the way back home. Now my feet hurt enough that I really don't notice my lungs, so I guess I'm cured! Well, except for that black crap coming out of my nose... oh, well. At least now I know what boogers are for.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"A cynic is just a disappointed idealist." -- Carlos Yu

"You think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fuckin' peasants, as far as I can see"

--Marianne Faithfull

I ought to look up old Carlos Yu on Facebook. I worked with him at my first newspaper job some 17 years ago (ouch), and I can't remember why I lost contact with him; he would have been worth staying in touch with, but I suppose I was a pretty flaky beer-drinking kid back then. Anyway, the above headline was Carlos's favorite saying, and it's floated up to the top of my mind lately, tied largely I'm sure to the complex of ideas that's been stirred up by the fact that the whole BP oil disaster has occupied about 80 percent of my coherent and topical thoughts (as opposed to thoughts like 'my leg itches' and 'the cat needs water' and 'oh, life is pointless anyway, let's pop in a Tim Burton movie') for the past few weeks.

You can hardly blame me for obsessing; if you aren't worried about the mysterious future consequences of unprecedented amounts of oil being spilled into the earth's least-well-known and largest ecosystem -- not to mention the ominous and equally unprecedented underwater oil plumes which are going to lurk god knows where killing god knows what for god knows how long -- then I think you're the one, to understate the case severely, who has a problem.

But as a mere ant in the global whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-the-economic-system-we-have-now, it seems all I can do about it is sign the odd petition and 'inform myself,' just in order to... what? Impress the more intellectual among my fellow ants? Scrabble for a shred of hope? Ignore my own mortality for a few moments thanks to a burst of righteous outrage? Hey, it seems to work for most ever'body else...

However, since I have, like most of the populace, long forgotten how to operate a physical newspaper, it's google google google "oil spill." So I find some pretty random stuff. There are the obligatory rants blaming Obama the socialist (if he's a socialist, kids, I'm a tree frog) and Geedub the oil tycoon (I hate to break this to you, but even if his entire life was indeed buoyed by crude, the oil cabal would have no doubt been just as strong without Junior as an ally), as expected. But what's really shocking is the relatively mainstream British-jingoist ranting I found in, of all places, the Daily Mail.

Yeah, I shouldn't have been surprised. Fancy that, a tabloid devoted to cellulite seek and snark missions publishes a bunch of columnists who still feel a vituperative resentment against the United States for... what, exactly? Not belonging to them anymore? Being fat and ugly? That's kind of the vibe I picked up, although, like most people who are tormented by tribal hatreds which are no longer nice to express in polite company, the Mail's columnists had to twist things around to make themselves look like victims, who are merely striking back in self-defense.

So their launching pad for their American-hating British diatribes is American hatred of the British, as exemplified by President Obama's OUTRAGEOUS reference to BP as 'British Petroleum,' a name the company ditched 12 years ago in favor of, um, the acronym of that very name.

See, that slip of the tongue, the Mail argues, shows just how much Obama hates, and always has hated, Great Britain. Remember when his wife HUGGED THE QUEEN? (The Mail actually used the verb form 'mauled,' as though Mrs. Obama were a bear, and her side-hug had in fact been a violent tongue kiss followed by erotic strangulation.) American outrage at BP's actions is, they claim, a direct expression of the fact that AMERICANS STUPIDLY HATE AND DISDAIN EVERYBODY, especially the INCREDIBLY CIVILISED AND SUPERIOR BRITISH RACE, because we are DUMB EUROTRASH HALFBREED YANKEE GITS. Ain't prejudice hideous? The amount of hatred simmering in these columns, as well as that openly expressed, on both sides, in the comments section, is surprising: we have been allies for quite some time, fella/ows.

Of course, one of the more rational Mail articles on the subject brought up the very valid question of why mainly-American companies such as Halliburton, who were BP's contractors on the blown-out well, are not getting the same fire as BP. Valid though it is, it's an easy question to answer: while Dick Cheney is still at large, anyone who questions Halliburton -- including the sitting president -- runs the risk of being waterboarded. (Or beheaded; I just got around to watching Alice in Wonderland, and while I've always admired Helena Bonham Carter, I think ole Dickwad would have been a much better casting choice for the Red Queen.)

I'll grant the Mail another point: as much of a ditheringly detached scumbag as he seems in his own right, you almost had to feel sorry for Tony Hayward when the U.S. Congress laid into him this week. The format of the interrogation was proportional to the disaster, but in no way appropriate to the amount of personal guilt that can be laid at the feet of a single man when an entire multinational corporation's habits of recklessness and greed are at fault.

HOWEVER: Come on, what different outcome did the Mail honestly expect? The US congressmen needed to show blustering outrage in order to appease their constituents so they could justify their useless overpaid role in a government that's so much weaker than the nondemocratic international corporate system of overlord-ism that their only possible means of remaining relevant is to, indeed, be noisy and hypocritical corporate lapdogs. How does this differ from the prostrate bloviation of British -- or any -- politicians? Serving up an individual head like Hayward (and, to a lesser extent, Obama) as a sacrificial circus scapegoat is the only way to quiet the populace without attacking the big, thick body of the multinational hydra -- which no politician, no matter how comfortably the hydra may line his pockets, has the power to do in any meaningful sense. (With the possible exception of Obama, who tried to make up for his adminstration's failure to clamp down on the oil industry in time to avert the disaster by wrangling a reparations trust fund for the small businesses and individuals that were ruined by the multinational's fuck-up -- but who in consequence is once again being blasted by the corporate welfare queens. That'll teach 'im! If he were more malin he'd just put Hayward in the stocks for a bit and then slither away with a payoff.)

In other words, if the Mail columnists know anything about the way the world works, which I hope they must, their attack on Congress (and by illogical extension, the entire American populace) is just as insincere and opportunistic as the Congressmen's attack on Hayward.

And, I suppose, in my turn I should not be surprised that the Mail is trying to drum up British jingoism against the stupid, dumb, arrogant, dumb, stupid Yanks; it's a great opportunity to use obsolete prejudices to get more clicks on your site from angry people on both sides of the pond. Never mind the fact that the daily lives of the Yanks and Brits whose ancient antagonisms they're riling up are, in the end, far more heavily affected by the same non-elected international corporate bureaucracy than they are by their own home governments. Hell, even our own home cultures are losing ground by the day.

That said, the Mail columnists do have another valid point: we Americans are throwing a fit and demanding reparations because a company we perceive as foreign (it's actually multinational, with plenty of U.S. stockholders and employees) has polluted our shores, when American corporations as well as the government are creating massive messes in others' backyards on a constant basis. True; even as we cry over BP's oiling of our shores, American companies are trashing our own neighbors' land to extract oil to fuel our monstrous SUVs. (Just google 'Canada tar sands' if you want to be absolutely sick.)

But then again, as repulsive and immoral as 'our' actions in Iraq, for example, have been, it's American taxpayers (not, you'll note, corporations such as Halliburton who have made money hand over fist off the war) whom the Bush administration set up to foot the bill for cleaning up the mess we've made there. The public sector in this country has enough trouble cleaning up its own disasters; once in a while we'd like the profiteers to pick up the bill, thank you, regardless of where they're based.

MORE ESSENTIALLY, HOWEVER: Is the average British citizen to blame for BP's spill? Absolutely not; they're powerless against the company, and any American who decides to hate the entire UK population for this soft attack is -- despite my devilish compulsion to make jokes like 'one if by crude, two if by methane' -- off his rocker. Aaaaaaaaand, by extension: just who the fuck are you, Daily Mail, to blame the average American citizen for the actions of powerful 'Americans'* beyond his control who pollute sites in other countries? I personally have no more control over the nefarious deeds of Halliburton than John Smith of Picadilly has over Tony Hayward, or than Ali Iraqui had over Saddamn not-actually-the-Taliban Hussein. In fact, I don't even drive. The Mail may rant and rave about what a gas-guzzling monster culture the U.S. has, but the fact of the matter is that most individuals must either live according to social norms or live like me -- rather small and outcast. Most people can't handle that. Do you own a vehicle, Mail columnists? Do you eat food and drink beverages? Yeah... I eat too. Maybe we should all shut up. If you're going to tilt at windmills, tilt at the multinational money government, not random tv-addicted 40-hour-a-week-working no-health-insurance-having American citizens. Most of us are just pigs being fattened for the slaughter, just like your own compatriots.

But back to Carlos Yu. You know, maybe I wouldn't care so much about any of this if it weren't for the Enlightenment. That was a period of time in which much idealism was bandied about, and those ideals have been passed down to us, even as a new, rather nastier -- dare I say it? -- international aristocracy has grown up around the corporate system. Free markets had their day, so they say, a hundred or two years ago, but what have we got now? The only people I know who weren't born with more money than God who are really rich now never sleep; they may have power within the circle influenced by their work, but they're hardly in a position or mental condition to make a real difference in the world. Those of us who want to have lives outside of work have no power at all, except the power of free blogspeech, which is reaaaaaaal useful when there are as many blogs as there are PC owners. Once in a while we can circulate a petition to save an historical building or two, but I'd like to see, say, restaurant-worker bloggers take down Sysco.

As twistedly as we may behave, modern denizens of nominally democratic nations are hopeless idealists, on the grand scale of things. More than any other peoples in history, we really seem to believe in freedom for everybody. Ironic then that almost nobody really has any. Which is business as usual for humanity, but we're unique in being so bothered by it that we're in near-psychotic denial. You're free, huh? How about that student loan? How about your rent payment? Mortgage payment? Oh, you've paid for your house? How about those property taxes, then? You think you can quit your job and keep that house you 'own'? What percentage of your income do you spend paying property taxes for the right to live on 'your' land in comparison to, say, the percentage of his fortune that an anonymous scion of the Walton family pays in total? Yeah, you're free. I'm free. Free to be you and me: indentured servants, whoo fucking pee.

I remember being patriotic when I was a little kid. It's natural to want to be proud of your country, even if it can lead to nasty things. It's especially natural when your country tells you stuff like, hey, you're free! No tyrant can rule over you! But then why is Dad so cranky and miserable? You find out when you get a job and are shoved into the mini-realpolitik of the office that, even if we were living in a pure and perfect libertarian or socialist paradise, where everybody truly got an equal shot from the start, people will take petty tyranny where they can achieve it, and enlarge the scope of their ass-rapership whenever possible. Actually, didn't you already learn that lesson in grade school? Even as you were assimilating the optimists' propaganda of freedom and equality, the kids who thought they were better than you for one reason or another (sometimes just because they didn't like your face) were stuffing you into the Dumpster behind the gym.

Feudalism and aristocracy seem to be the natural tendencies of large-scale and complex human societies. Any measure of democracy or freedom is a sweet fruit to be savored, indeed, but not to be depended upon. It seems almost cruel to inculcate children with the idea that these things are their inalienable rights, when most waking hours of most people's lives in even the most affluent nations are marred by bondage to activities contrary to the individual will. And the sweeter freedom sounds to you, the bitterer you're going to be when you grow up and realize how pitifully rare such a thing is in all of human history.

Sometimes I just want to put my blinkers on, get high on yoga, put my head down, and think about nonexistent gods while I muck through the most mindless job I can find, then shuffle home and turn on the circus tube. When I was younger I thought such behavior was degenerate, but now I think it's realistic; nonetheless, something keeps me studying things like Sanskrit and history and literature whenever I can work up the energy. I think that something may be a yet-unlabeled form of insanity. 'Cause we're still fucking peasants as far as I can see, and even after the death of Divine Right, repositories of divide-and-conquer strategems such as the Daily Mail and the non-fiscal right seem to hold an eternal advantage over love and logic.

*Who, for all their own opportunistic pseudo-jingoist rhetoric, care more about their equally wealthy Saudi oil buddies than they care about Joe Yank -- I mean, seriously, geedub would have looked much more appropriate wearing a giant pound symbol hat on his head than a frigging cowboy hat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More signs of the apocalypse

Oh joy, now it turns out that an oil slick on top of the Gulf of Mexico would have been a minor cosmetic blemish compared to the new development: we're starting to get oil 'plumes,' they say, columns of oil droplets that are dispersing through the water below the surface, like colossal goopy octopi poised to strangle the oxygen out of the web of life.

Woops! Our bad! Sorry, other animals! Before we can figure out the real extent of the damage this spill will ultimately do to the world's largest and most mysterious ecosystem, we'll probably be extinct. Maybe we can make up one last advertising slogan for ourselves before we go. HUMANS: WE'RE LIKE AIDS FOR THE EARTH!

You'd better eat all the oysters you can while there's still time, kids. Eat 'em like popcorn while Obama (I tried to figure out what the hell logic leads the peanut gallery to surmise that this is his fault, but then I thought, oh well, a scapegoat's a scapegoat) and Tony Heyward are forced into a cage match. The last of the circenses!

But seriously, folks, I was talking to a millionaire at a bar the other day. The guy's an engineer, doesn't have a care in the world financially, he's about to pay off the mortgage on his condo... which he has stocked with three weeks' worth of rice, beans, bottled water, and canned food, because, while he hopes he never has to use them, he thinks it's fairly likely that the shit will hit the fan sooner than later, and he wants to be the guy who survives the critical period. Everybody laughs at me, he says... all my coworkers laugh at my Aldi's-shoppin' lifestyle and giggle at my pantry... but who knows whether a day will come when a million dollars in the bank won't get you a dried split pea?

Tell it to Louisiana, buddy. Tell it to Louisiana. Maybe it's just me (well, probably), but even up here in Chicago there's a sort of panic in the air.


If you can believe the Rolling Stone's political reporting (and pardon my ig, which is vast, but I don't see much more reason to distrust them than, say, Fox News), the Obama administration hasn't done all that much to clean up the corrupt relationship between oil companies and their would-be gummint regulators. Ah ha. Well then, cage match it is. But since Obama has at least publicaly admitted his guilt, he gets to keep his underwear on, and Heyward has to fight with tackle flapping. Then again, maybe nobody wants to see that...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I'm completely perplexed by the debate over whether animals have emotions. I thought I'd be the last person to have serious issues with the scientific method, but come ON. If you see that look of fear on an animal's face and don't recognize it for what it is, yeah, you might be a smidgen of a sociopath. Just saying. They do. That's it. I mean, the look on a human's face and the things it says are the only things you need to indicate that another human has feelings like you do, non? So why do you need any further evidence when that same sort of eye-pinch is coming from a cow?

Shit, I think I just argued myself into vegetarianism again. That never lasts for long... my body just starts blathering about the shit it needs to survive... arrrrrrgh, to have been born an innocent rabbit...

Signs that you might want to rethink your dress sense

Holy shit, I'm still laughing my head off... OK, so I just walked out of the corner store with a can of pop after having yet another delightful conversation with the delightfully harmless and distracting religiously insane cult guy who owns it (since he doesn't belong to one of the majors, what large-scale harm can he possibly be?) and walked out, still chuckling over the delightfully mad nuggets of self-help advice he had been trying to wedge down my throat between quips, admittedly not paying nearly enough attention to where I was going, and some woman who seemed in the end to be at least as unhinged as I am, poor thing, nearly backed her car over me while trying to park. I leapt out of the way, and one of a bunch of kids who were on their way into the store screamed at the woman: "LADY, YOU JUST ABOUT RAN OVER THE PROSTITUTE!"

Imagine how flummoxed this woman must have felt as she was trying, in horror, to apologize to me for almost killing me, as I was laughing uncontrollably and trying to communicate to the kid (while the other kids were yelling at said kid for being rude) what a budding comedian I thought she was. Fuck, I really thought this coat looked neat... but maybe I should stop wearing it with miniskirts. Prior to this incident, I was mentally composing a goofy post about how aristocratic I think I am, but that would just make me look ridiculous now... fuck, exactly what is it about a pair of a-few-years-old Dansko sandals set against a coat with a vaguely Marilyn-Monroe-y fake-fur collar that screams 'hooker' to somebody who doesn't even look like she needs tampons yet?!??! I'm afraid to dress myself now. I need to call my more-sartorially-clever sister every time I plan to leave the house, I guess... hee hee hee gotta admit I'm half tempted to go back out again without changing a stitch, but the reason I was headed home early from my random pointless walk in the first place is that I was cold and wanted to add a sweater or four, since the thought of having to put on foldy bendy entrappy jeans at this time of year makes me want to jump out the window... huh, maybe I should also stop aimlessly wandering around the streets when I can't think of anything better to do. 'Street walking' in the classic sense... this is what happens when you let a Wisconsin girl who is amused by dressing too loudly move to Uptown, I guess. Punk rock must have fallen out of fashion again. Oh well, all we have to do is wait for Lisa Falour to go viral and then I'll look perfectly normal.

PS why is it that seriously hating a lot of fabric hanging around your legs must necessarily translate as 'whore'? If it weren't for the sex thing and we kept it to antiquities, I would have made a great Victorian. But you people must think against sex all the time, mustn't you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

(bitter reflection upon the past deleted)

In any case, ME ME ME ME ME have proofreading credits for a book I love, to wit, the latest release from Chip Smith's always thoughtful (well, except when he snorts Drano and agrees to publish me later this year, of course) Nine-Banded Books label, is...

by Jim Crawford.
I couldn't be prouder.

PS proof-monkey fuh fackts: -er vs more as a comparative:

The general rool of thmz is that two syllables or less is -er, three or more is 'more,' which generally works. (Cooler vs. more atrocious.) BUT the real, secret base rool iz: if it's a middle English or olde Ynglishe root (ie not Greek or Latin) then it's -er. If Greek or Latin, or Latin via French (huzzah for 1066 and all that! variety, spice, yer know), then use the alienating 'more.' Bitte!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to do their job...

...especially since my own employment status lately ranges from under- to 'what-the-hell-is-going- on?' to 'oh, I should just go throw myself under a bus, the world has no use for me.' But jiminy Christmas -- Chicago must have the most incompetent panhandlers on the face of the fucking earth.

I mean, panhandlers do provide a kind of service. They serve as a way for overpaid people to assuage some of the guilt they feel over the fact that they receive far more money than they need to sit in a corner office and do nothing that is of any use to anyone. I have never required this service, personally, so I do not give money to panhandlers unless they particularly appeal to me for some reason. The girl with the cat a couple months ago, for instance. Not only did she have a sign saying she wanted to work -- and a stack of resumes she was handing out to anyone who would take one -- she had an adorable, if frightened-looking, fuzzy cat on her lap. I gave her a dollar I really couldn't afford to give away basically because I hoped some of it would be used to purchase cat food.


Like a civilized beggar, this skilled member of her craft wrote a description of her situation on her sign, and then sat there quietly next to her sign, thereby giving people the choice of whether or not to give her money or take her resume without shrieking, bellowing, moaning, groaning, whining, or belching at them to get their attention.

Most panhandlers, who can't figure out the psychology behind the very acts of human kindness on which they've decided to depend for a living, suck. Look, buddy. You who have been yelling at me since the moment you saw me. People are not blind, unless they have a cane or a dog with them to indicate that, yes, they might not notice you standing there with your hand out. Most of us can fucking see you there. If we are not giving you money, it's because we're unemployed and broke and almost homeless ourselves. Or maybe we're selfish, OK, you got us -- but is barking like a dog at a person suddenly going to make them see the light about human fellowship?! If they want to give you money, people will. But if you make noises out of your fucking head at them -- and most of you make really loud and irritating noises with your heads; maybe this situation could be improved if you were forced to listen to recordings of yourselves -- the likelihood that they will give you cash drops considerably.

The cat girl was raking it in. These dipshits who think they're going to provoke compassion by howling at people -- do you ever see anybody giving them change? Ever? The only ones I ever see giving them anything start talking as they do it, and it quickly becomes clear that they're just as fucking douchey and irritating as the incompetent panhandler, only luckier. They enjoy giving money to other loud, obnoxious hosers? -- well, good for them. But that's really a specialty market. People who don't like being yelled at in public make up, I think, the vast majority.

And they only seem to be getting worse. I guess everyone else is increasingly broke, so they're increasingly desperate. Instead of working smarter though, they're just working harder. The other day I was trucking down Halsted, trying to save el fare by walking a ridiculously long way to a job interview; I had some quarters in my pocket that I was going to spend on the train back if I was too tired. I was trying to cross before the light turned red when this fucker with a Dunkin Donuts cup popped out from behind a mailbox and started not only shouting in my face about how he could hear the change in my pocket, but doing a shuffle-dance back and forth in order to keep himself in my way so I would be trapped on the street corner with him for the duration of the red light. I was not in the mood for a goddamned waltz lesson; needless to say, he did not get any money out of me that day. I didn't even deign to point out the irony of the situation.

Then again, maybe in these tough economic times, it's good for the rest of us that the vets stink at this trade so awfully. Things get any worse, I should start panhandling myself. Show these morons a thing or two. Just by keeping my fool mouth shut I'd be the ace rookie on the block.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fuck the artists of old

They had no idea what it was like to toil in obscurity with SIX BILLION TOILERS ON THE GLOBE.

They never toiled this long, this hard, or this hopelessly.

To hell with them.

But further to hell with you, breeders.

You cheapen human life further with each cheap, cheap soul.

You have put the price of hard labor at zero, and the price of art at negative twenty.

I only wish there were gods to punish you for your sociopathic carelessness.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yet more benefits for breeders

Ho ho ho, I love the State of Illinois. "The economy is terrible, everyone's out of a job, people are miserable through no fault of their own, college graduates are in debt and screwed, blah blah blah, jeez, we have to help people... but not without making them earn their keep. Hmm... I know, let's subsidize some jobs and call it Put Illinois to Work!

"But hang on, let's not get too crazy. Let's make sure to exclude everybody who hasn't deliberately dragged another soul into their pit of economic woe:"

Great idea, State of Illinois. There are too many people on the globe, and yet you keep rewarding those who are adding to the problem, at everyone else's expense. Will there come a day when I'll have to decide between starving and preggers? I'll have to make a sign and carry it around: "Will be babymomma for food." I mean, come on, people, are you trying to keep up with the Chinese? Do you REALLY want to try to stuff a billion hoomins onto our portion of this continent just to keep up in the race to be the globe's most prominent cock-slapper (jesus, I just referenced lolcats and the Onion in the same sentence, please put some tape over my mouth)? Do you think that having more people around than our resources can support is going to HELP somehow? I'm trying to come up with some sort of rationale for why our society keeps encouraging mindless gene-replication, but nary a one seems, er, rational.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Hurt Locker

OK, so it took me way too long to see this great film, and of course my first reaction is smart-assed. I was watching the scene where Lieutenant Sanborn and the crazy new commander are shit-faced drunk and punching each other in the stomach for fun, and I thought, "Wow, I take it back -- men actually do play games with each other that are even more profoundly stupid than golf."

But then I'm watching all the scenes with 'the suit,' and I'm thinking, hm. They only have one seriously armored suit per unit, and it weighs a shitload -- the guy inside it dies because he can't even run far enough to get to where the suit is actually good enough to protect him. The rest of the guys are running around with arms and legs apparently just covered in cloth; clearly they've got some body armor on, but their eyes are protected by sunglasses. Awesome.

I know, I don't know dick about military technology -- no more than I know about medical technology. But I've always had this little conspiracy theory about happy pills: if we weren't such friggin' puritans about not wanting anyone to feel pleasure, do you think we might be concentrating on actually having HAPPY pills instead of just pills that alleviate symptoms of abnormal mental states? Because, come on, even if you aren't seeing Jesus or suffering double depression, most of life is not exactly elation. We have all these pills to alleviate psychotic delusions, depression, anxiety, whatever. So what's stopping us having a pill that will make us feel seriously happy and free? Like being drunk or stoned, but without the cirrhosis and lung cancer. I have no proof, of course, but I still have the sneaking suspicion we could do it.

So now I'm starting to wonder about military armor. I mean, yeah, you want guys to be mobile, and the government, obviously, has a limited amount of money. But Jesus, I spent 300 dollars and got a computer with a webcam and everything else you could want, and it weighs two fucking pounds. We make spacesuits, for christ's sake. A vacuum isn't an explosion, sure, but it's still a pretty extreme condition for an Earth creature. We have smart bombs too, right? Although we don't hear about them that often anymore. Maybe they don't actually work so well. Maybe the U.S. military is just throwing darts at a board, they way they usually have to do with psychiatric meds. I dunno, I just think... all this stuff we build. Why not better armor? Why not a healthy drunk pill? Is that too much money to spend on grunts? Is that too much happiness for good Christians to want without expecting harsh payback? I hope it's simply that we can't figure this stuff out, because those are some stupid fucking objections, if that's indeed what's holding us back.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wrongful Birthday Suit, part II

I wrote a short poem this morning before going to work... I thought it was finished, but while I was sitting there in court watching all these bitter child-support disputes while I waited for the case I was translating for to come up, my brain started spewing what seemed like an endless supply of verses. One couple started fighting in front of the judge and had to be sent to sit down; another guy had to be asked to stop calling the judge "you guys," as though she individually represented the entire justice system... and all because none of them could remember to put on a condom. So here it is, in all its crescendoing, hysterical rejection of this mortal coil...


I hate being sober
I hate being drunked
I hate being captain
I hate being punked

I hate the cold
and I hate the bright sun
I hate getting started,
I hate being done;

I hate being alive
but I'm sure death is worse
All human existence
is simply a curse.

I hate being certain,
I hate being confused
It's too frickin' seldom
I'm very amused

I hate being naked
I hate wearing clothes
I hate all this stuffed-up shit inside my nose
I hate having jobs
but I hate being broke;
It kills you to do nice things like drink and smoke.

Women are mental
And men are disgusting
And rare's the example of either
Worth trusting

And if you should find one
They'll likely soon croak
Or someone will tell you they're dead
For a joke

Life starts with an ass-smack
then hustle and tussle;
My knee hurts, my tooth broke,
I have a sore muscle.

'Twas vile being young,
Now I'm scared to grow old
I might be attacked
And both my kidneys sold.

My job terrifies me,
My BA is worthless;
I hate a buffoon
Just as I hate the mirthless.

Employment is slavery --
Go ask the Greeks.
I just lay in bed with swine flu
for two weeks.

Wherever I go
I can smell a big rat;
My friends will all die some day
As will my cat.

Most people are hypocrites,
When they aren't rude;
Hunger's unpleasant,
And so is most food.

There's rape, plague, and boredom,
There's losing your mom,
And seven new nations this week
Got the bomb.

Misery en masse
is from time to time faddish;
Here are ten starving Slovaks
Dividing a radish.

There's loneliness, child abuse,
Tenement halls,
Plus the time that you e-mailed
And hit 'send to all.'

There's biting a sandwich
And tasting the mold,
There's watching Brett Favre get insane
And grow old.

You might lose your mind
And you could lose your pension;
There's helplessness, hopelessness,
Water retention,

There's nothing on TV
'cept medical dramas
Recalling unpleasantly
All of your traumas.

Bad writers, bad painters,
Bad singers, bad mimes,
Get rich and well-known
While you haven't a dime;

The masses might coat you
With feathers and tar,
But we'll all see a squirrel
Smashed under a car.

There's your growing stack
Of form rejection letters,
There's crying for weeks
And still not feeling better;

You've struggled for decades
And still aren't the best;
There's that scary sensation again
in your chest.

A friend stole the love
Whom you blindly adored;
cut corners, mass layoffs,
And beer that's short-poured

There's trouble with teachers,
the law, and the mob,
There's glimpsing a mirror
And seeing a slob.

Too few public toilets,
And all of them stink,
The person before you
Heaved up in the sink.

There are beatings and balding
And herpes and farts;
The camera killed most
Of the visual arts.

There's paperwork, busywork,
Shitwork, and gout,
There's lying, castration,
A surfeit of louts;

There's finding out there's
No such thing as the Force;
There's child support after
Your grisly divorce.

There's delayed retirement,
The failure of plans,
The sudden appearance
Of IRS vans,

That person who follows
Too close on the stair,
Hearing a noise
When no one should be there,
Being the only one not in a pair,
And fathers whose answer is
"Life isn't fair"...

There's perjury, penury,
Pissants and dearth,
And the number one cause of our death
Is still birth.

So think before you take your ass
Off the pill;
Your offspring might not wish to wait
For your will.

Wrongful Birthday Suit

I hate being sober
I hate being drunk
I hate being captain
I hate being a punk
I hate going to bed
and I hate getting up

I hate the cold
and I hate the bright sun
I hate getting started,
I hate being done;

I hate being alive
but I'm sure death is worse
All human existence is simply a curse.
I hate being certain,
I hate being confused
It's too frickin' seldom I'm very amused
I hate being naked
I hate wearing clothes
I hate all this stuffed-up shit inside my nose
I hate having jobs
but I hate being broke;
It kills you to do nice things like drink and smoke.
So think, think, before you stop taking that pill!
Your offspring may not want to wait for your will.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Koko the Natural Woman

I was going to write a post about how much cuter my adult cat is than any human baby I've ever seen (and just think what she must have been like as a kitten). But I know what kind of ass-hat assumption that leads to: "This so-called 'childfree' bitch is secretly seething with envy because she hasn't had any babies and feels worthless and unloved*, so she's stereotypically hoarding cats and trying to convince herself that they're really just as good as the joys of being a mombie. One of these days her biological clock is gonna catch up with her, and she'll cry her eyes out over the realization that it's too late."

Yep. Well, that's pretty hard to argue against, since it's so goddamn dumb, and people love to believe in stupid shit, particularly when there are so many romantic comedies that prop up their delusions. Women all really want to have babies! Motherhood is our natural state! It's the fulfillment of our existence! If people are really just animals, we'll only make ourselves miserable if we fail to follow our natural inclinations, right? I'm going to set aside, for the moment, the consideration of whether it's ethical to bring someone into this world for the sole purpose of making one's selfish self happy and fulfilled. I'm just going to present ye with a test case: is baby-making actually going to do that for one's selfish self?

Well, if you want to define happiness as giving in to one's most basic human instincts, then I present you with the one woman in the world who most perfectly walks the fine line between being able to speak her mind and being in a natural, primitive state, free of the BS and delusion of civilamazation: Koko the Gorilla.

Koko became famous about a quarter-century ago for learning human sign language, and for showing the ability to express not just simple desires and aversions, but hopes, fears, emotions, and a surprisingly complex grasp of stuff and stuff. When Koko learned sign language, your average mombie would have probably been gratified to hear that her fondest requests would run along the lines of "Koko want male gorilla no condom please want small gorilla to chew up nipples and ask depressing questions of why human can leave cage but gorilla no can leave."

But oddly enough, Koko never asked for such a thing; she may have gotten knocked up later on when they brought in a signing male gorilla, but something tells me it was an unplanned pregnancy on her part, and probably on the male's as well; like humans, gorillas naturally like sex. But also like us, I don't think they're necessarily going at it with a productive end in mind. Nature may trick us into having babies by making sex so appealing, but She (the wretch) relies only on our sense of grim duty to get us to take care of them once they've appeared. You see, Koko never expressed any desire for a baby. What did this natural woman really want? What did she demand for her birthday? I think you may have already guessed...

Koko asked for a KITTEN. Case closed.

*For the record, I have had men not only beg, but PLOT to make me the mother of their children, so don't even let your lil brainz think about me sitting on the pity pot, yeah?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On a kinder, gentler note...

... it's funny that, while I find Evelyn's Waugh's religious views to be borderline delusional, I find his novels much more pleasurable to read than those of writers with whom I come closer to agreeing intellectually.

Sort of akin to the way I'd much rather look at a nice Caravaggio biblical scene than, say, a conceptual piece echoing the emptiness of emptiness.

I guess I like fiction, even when the author thereof actually believes it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Doing me taxes...

... and wondering why it is that people without babies always have to pay more taxes, but people without them are the ones who get all the benefits.

I mean, you don't subsidize my novels. Why should we?, you huff. I'm clever enough, and could have gone into a more lucrative field, like, say, dull mindless money-grubbing. It was MY CHOICE to take a particular route in life -- to grasp at faux immortality through literary fame. So I must swallow the cost.

Yeah? And who forced you to have a baby at gunpoint, then? It was YOUR CHOICE to go for faux-immortality through reproduction. You should have to pay for the consequences of your choices, since they're just as silly as mine. In fact, since at least my decisions have involved actual thinking instead of doing whatever everyone else does, they're SILLIER.

But even if you're well-to-do, you still get tax breaks for your choice. If you're down on your luck, you have access to government handouts that I can't get, no matter how bad the economy or my personal situation become. Why do I have to swallow all your extra costs and never get any benefits myself?

Just askin'. My guess is: you're selfish, useless, and the majority.

And you still want me to step aside on the sidewalk for your double-wide stroller. Guess what?

Not gonna.

Non-babymommas: the strike starts now.

PS Hehnnnnnn... reading the above, I'm afraid I'm so angry today that I give antinatalists a bad name.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just another stupor day at circus court

The death of John Mortimer was right up there among the sad deaths of the past 12 months (Jeff Felshman, my mom's cousin Craig, Vic Chesnutt -- I almost started crying just typing that one -- J.D. Salinger, my friend Lee Kluever, Jay Reatard), although unlike many of the others, he at least got to live a long, full life full of creative fun. If you've never been graced with the joys of Mortimer's most famous creation, you need to get the Rumpole books or the DVDs as soon as you can. Though books are more portable, I'd actually recommend the audiovisual version in this case, as it was greatly enriched by the acting talent of Leo Kern, who also died just a couple of years ago, damn the universe to all hell.

Rumpole of the Bailey was that rare breed of barrister who cared far more about keeping his poor, huddled, and usually shifty clients out of a cage (it didn't matter to Rumpole whether they did it or not; in fact he didn't want to know) than about keeping his wife in fancy dresses, or himself in anything like a respectable-looking wig and hat. Bit like a hooker with a heart of gold.

Anyway, one of old Rumpole's delightful chomps at the legal system that fed him was to habitually refer to the prestigious circuit court, to which he never quite got promoted, as 'circus court.'

Boyyyyyyy, did he have that right.

So there I am at 9:30, an ocean away from the old Bailey, and not as close to the Skokie circus court as I need to be at this hour. I was out at a rock show last night, but that's not why I'm late; I left the house at the usual time, but I'm up over my knees in snow, and hoping I can somehow manage to slog through before the judge starts asking 'where the hell's that interpreter temp?!' and calling the agency. I'm only about a mile into the 2.3-mile slog from the el's yellow line to the courthouse; the snow is thick and wet, the day is getting warm, and I haven't been this deep in unplowed snow since the el broke down and I had to walk home in the middle of the night during the blizzard of 2000.

I should have left home earlier, because I should have guessed that nobody in fucking Skokie believes in shoveling the sidewalk. It's like another goddamned planet, where everyone is born with a car seat attached to his ass. I'm surprised I haven't been picked up for vagrancy, or a drug search. It's like being back in Carbondale.

Even when there aren't two feet of snow, some of the sections of street along my route don't even have sidewalks. Why do they send all the criminals from the north side of the city of Chicago to a circuit court in an unwalkable suburb that only has one el stop? As if I didn't know! The court employees probably lobbied like crazy to have it built there: the more small-time criminals who can't afford cars who can be convicted in absentia, the quicker they can get to lunch. I'm not joking; the lawyers and courtroom cops start making lame quips about how great food is going to be starting at around ten. (Speaking of the cops: I love the way courtroom cops glare imperiously at me until they figure out that I'm not a defendant's moll; dude, you're basically a security guard. All the criminals you see are already in cuffs.)

Well, at least I've got my practical boots on. They get me through to the courthouse only a bit late. The nasty lady cop who does entry security (she, too, has an unearned 'tude; I see her there every goddamn time I work, it's clearly her only duty) screams and rolls her eyes at how stupid I am when I leave a quarter in my pocket before entering their metal detector. She's my favorite coworker.

I get to the court, and I'm relieved to find that, as usual, there is a long, long list of males waiting to be tried before the females come up, and the defendant I'm translating for is a woman. (They refer to the defendants as 'males' and 'females,' and since they seem determined to do all the males first, I've developed an absurd theory that after the verdict is passed and they're taking them back to the prison, they spay or neuter them, and they don't want to have to switch tools for every case the way they would have to do if they went in alphabetical order. Yeah, I can get bored and wacky sitting there.)

Not only has nobody noticed that I'm late, I can sneak out to the cafeteria and get a caffeinated beverage; now that the judge has spotted me and noticed I'm here, the clerk will know that she can page me if the woman's case comes up.

But first, I want to watch the current trial. It's clear that it's a bigger deal than what they usually do -- there are witnesses and everything! Usually they just push the defendants through; it's hard for any lawyer, much less a public defender, to refute the usual failed breathalyzer tests and video-taped shop-liftings. The drug cases are my least favorite, because the cops always seem to have the shakiest evidence on those -- I've never seen a photo of a confiscated package or any such thing in court, and the judge never asks. I wonder how hard it would actually be to frame someone? And while more addictive drugs might cause people to commit robberies and murders and such, ingesting or carrying marijuana is kind of a classic example of a victimless crime, in my book.

This defendant is a bit different. He's wearing a bright yellow jump suit, which I've never seen, only a dingy blue for the women, dingy green for men. Maybe it means something in prison code. At any rate, I'm sucked in to his story. The public defender and the DA are cross-examing the cop who arrested the guy, and then the guy himself. It's clear that the guy was caught with bundles of small packages of marijuana (to which which the DA sneeringly refers as 'dope,' apparently having no idea what a dill-hole she sounds like); the question is whether the cop saw him stuffing the bag into his pants as he was pulled over, and whether there was a bit of the bag still sticking out of his pocket when the cop approached. I slowly figure out that they're trying to determine whether the search was warranted or illegal.

And then they call in the star witness. Now, this is the kind of drama you think of when you think of a 'court case,' and it's exactly what I have never yet seen in a court of law. Speaking of molls, this witness would make John Dillinger so envious he'd get hives. She has perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect butt in a modestly gray but very, very tight knee-length skirt. She's well-spoken, and the words are coming out of a beautiful face. It's making everyone in court's day. The DA says to her, "Now, of course you're going to try to protect your boyfriend, because you want him to stay out of jail so he can... keep being your boyfriend."

Moll (softly, with a charming modesty): He will be no matter what.

Whether he goes to jail or not, you have to admit, he's sort of a lucky guy.

Anyway, she was the driver in the car, and her story matches the boyfriend's, doesn't match that of the cop. The public defendant points out all the inconsistencies in the cop's story; the DA makes some very assertive-sounding ad hominem attacks on the lovely couple (and manages to say 'dope' again about five times). I thoroughly dislike her by this point.

I do like this judge, however; she's always kind to me, and she always tries to be fair; she did go off on a repeat-offense drunk driver once, but christ, it's scary for everyone to have people drinking on the road. And she always looks reluctant to sentence small-time drug offenders, even when the evidence (which, for all I know, she has in fact seen in legal briefs which would be too time-consuming to drag into the formal proceeding; pardon my conspiracy theory above; just had to get it off my chest) seems damning. She says she needs a few minutes before she can make up her mind, and goes on to the next rubber-stamp case while she mulls over it.

I basically trust her. But you never know. I decide to go get that beverage instead of wait for her decision, so I can pretend she did the right thing, so that I'll go on liking at least one of the people in this looney bin (there's also a court secretary -- I think that's what she is -- who's very sweet and showed me where the water cooler was, but she was out sick today). Drug prohibition always bothered me, but not as much as it has since I've had this job. Judges and lawyers and lawmakers might be public servants in their way, but in their own way, so are drug dealers. I'm allergic to pot myself, but I have friends who enjoy it -- and so do you, and so does everyone, even if they aren't aware of it. Even if pot were legal, would you want to go through all the rigamarole of growing it? It's supposed to be a pain in the butt. I mean, you don't even grow your own tomatoes, I'll bet, and those are easy. Without drug dealers, everyone would be a drunken lawyer.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was on my way to the cafeteria, and I spotted one of the lawyers I'd seen slouching around the courtroom. The client I've been translating for -- we'll call the poor woman N -- gets a new public defendant every week, and I'm hoping he's it, because then I can check in with him and tell him where I'm going so I may have my caffeine in a relaxed mood.

"Hi, I'm the interpreter for the N case. Are you her lawyer?"

"Nope," he says. "But I'll tell him you're here."

"OK," I say, "thanks," and I turn to walk away.

Ha ha, nothing's ever that goddamned simple.

"Interpreter!" he calls after me. "What language?"

"French," I say, and instinctively cringe, because I know he's going to say...

"Oh? French! Really? Oui oui oui!"

Why do all douchebag court employees say this when I answer that question? I've never in my life heard any French person actually repeat 'oui' three fucking times. Is that from some dumb fucking movie or something? It makes my blood boil.

And he goes on: "Bonjour, Mademoiselle! Bonjour! Oui oui oui! I love French. It's the most romantic language.

"Ah, vraiment? Alors vous..."

"Ha ha ha, I don't know what you're saying. Those are the only words I know. But it's soooooo beautiful and romantic. I LOVE it."

Yeah? I HATE people who say shit like that, what a coincidence. If you're clever enough to be a lawyer, and you looooooooooove French, and it's suuuuuuuuuuuuch a romantic language, whhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy do you only know three words of it? Oh yeah: because learning French wouldn't make you any money, and you're a lawyer fuck. If you used your big brains on beautiful things like French, you'd be a fucking temp. Also: how do you know you looooooove a language when you only know three words of it? I think Japanese is kinda sexy sounding, but for all I know it has a gimped-up grammatical system from hell. Therefore, I say that am a curious about the language, but I don't use that curiosity to ham-fistedly hit on its current students.

Yep, hit on. Real subtle, too. One conversational turn in and I'm already hearing him say: "You know, you really look kind of French... with those glasses... mmm... hey, are you nervous?"

"I, uh, no, I'm tired, I had to walk in the snow from the Skokie Swift..."

"You walked all the way from the Skokie Swift?!" He shrieks. Clearly he is one of those car people who consider any act of autolocomotion that carries one farther than the distance from the mall food court to the far-end Macy's to be a feat akin to the Boston Marathon.

"Gosh, no wonder you're in such good shape... you look very athletic." Yeah, I'm a power walker, dude. Maybe I look sporty with my winter zip-up fleece on, but I don't have enough hand-eye coordination to drive a car, much less excel at naked racquetball or whatever the hell he's seeing in his simian head.

He's still going: "Perfect complexion... " (has this moron ever heard of makeup?!) "...and what color are your eyes under those glasses?... mmm..." It occurs to me that he is actually analyzing my appearance for himself OUT LOUD, as though I were deaf. How many deaf oral interpreters do you get in here, bonehead?!?!

"Speaking of romantic, it's almost Valentine's Day? Are you doing anything?"

I guess he figures he's gotten past the flirting stage now, and it's time to drag me into his lawyer-cave. Jesus, how do these douches pass the bar? "I hate Valentine's Day."

"That's refreshing. Not going in for those bullshit holidays. I don't meet girls like you very often."

I want to comically slap myself in the face and then let my fingers slide down till they pull my lower eyelids inside-out at him. But instead I say: "Hey, I've really got to get some caffeine in me while I wait for my case. When you get back to court, could you let the public defender know I'm here?" I want to make sure that he and I are headed in opposite directions.

"Anything you like! That was actually my last case, but I'll do anything for you if you can tell me how to get hold of you."

My jaw is bouncing off the floor. He thinks I want to give him my phone number!?!? I give him my e-mail ("I hate the phone"; this is just as true as my remark about yet another holiday which revolves around extorting gift purchases out of people, but I'm trying to edit my conversation to include only things I hate), panic momentarily over that -- why am I always so reflexively polite?!? -- but remind myself that I can put him on my junk list the minute I hear from him.

Finally, coffee. I sit down with my book and start to sip. Ahhhhh.

Two minutes later, I hear a voice making noises at me: he's back. Gehhhhhhehehhrhhehrheherhhrehererrher. Circuit music starts playing in my head as he starts to talk to me. I lamely attempt to keep reading my book, but he's talking too loud, and I am too angry now. He spews a lot of idiotic drivel which makes me rabid over the fact that he's rich and I'm poor; I distract myself by making a solemn vow that the next person who tries to tell me we're living in anything resembling a meritocracy is going to be in a coma for at least eight weeks. He's gone past analyzing my appearance now, and has now begun to extrapolate, from my terse, barely polite replies to his inquiries, as to what kind of girlfriend material I am. "Cultured, studious, unconventional... and you're studying medieval history!" I stonily refuse to point out the fact that the book I'm reading is in fact a history of ancient Greece. "Wow."

The conversation is getting more uncomfortable by the minute -- not that he's bothered -- and he comes up with what I suppose he thinks is a save: "Hey, they probably won't be doing the females till after lunch. How about I take you out?"

"I just had a sandwich."

"We could go get a nice glass of wine then! French wine, ron ron ron!"

I stare at him. "Before court?" Then it suddenly dawns on me: he's not just serious about his offer -- he's already drunk. I finally look straight at him, which you're not supposed to do if some dude is pestering you -- it ruckuses up their hormones, I guess -- and he can barely focus his eyes. His face is all red. He's shitfaced.

"Is there anything you do need?"

"I need a nap. I've got to work my other job tonight still..."

"Oh, well, I've got 72 channels of cable at home, you can just zonk out there until..."

"I've got a boyfriend," I say, and stalk out, furious. I mean, I'm all for the civilized, old-world glass of beer or wine at lunch. But this is the 21st century, and we're working in a building where people who have the nerve to like marijuana instead of or in addition to booze are sentenced to lose years of their life in a fucking cage. And this guy is walking around blatantly shitfaced on his nice, legal, expensive wine? That's taunting, you fuck. If you were in the NFL you'd get fined for that! It isn't cricket. I mean, if you have one beer at lunch, OK. But so shitfaced you're asking the goddamn temps to go get shitfaced with you!? It's not like I don't drink enough outside of court as it is! Go to hell.

Anyway, I might be steaming from the ears, but at least I'm rid of Toad Lawyer. Yet the fun is nowhere near over. We've still got N to contend with. Her case doesn't come up till just before the lunch break, at 1 PM (whatever; I got paid to sit around for three hours and be pest meat).

Cripes, poor N. It's hard to think about her. I keep feeling like I should have done something, even if I am forbidden to get involved with the clients. I just repeat what everyone says, like some demented legal parrot. "I was just squawking my job!"

Well, at least they didn't kill her. Just took a couple years of her life. They did give her psychiatric care for free, I suppose, if by 'lots of meds, just enough to quit hallucinating and sort of tolerate being in a prison filled with violent criminals whose language you do not speak' you mean 'psychiatric care.'

N was picked up for shoplifting from an overpriced department store in 2008. Doesn't seem like the kind of crime you'd spend years of your life in jail for on a first offense, does it? Ha ha ha. Welcome to the great state of Illinois, kiddo. Sell a Senate seat -- become a celebrity! But if you steal over $300 worth of clothes -- and in the case of her little spree at Nordstrom's, that only came to one blouse, a pair of pants, and a bathing suit -- you can go to jail for two to five years. She should have gone to Filene's.

I only started working on her case about six months ago. I don't know who was doing her translation when she first got into the system, but they must have really had a hard time believing what they were hearing. Because they were hearing things like "I was born under the Vatican, the reason I seem to be speaking French is because They put a device in my throat; my native language is Latin. N isn't my real name; that's the name of the woman who killed me and my family."

N didn't come to the U.S. planning to shoplift, nor did she hope to have her first psychotic break. The back story didn't come clear till her last psychiatric evaluation, which took place in the Cook County legal system's psychiatric unit, which is on the tenth floor of the 26th and California branch of the circuit court building, which is connected to the jail. N has been bouncing between this unit, the jail below, and the Skokie for two years now. The psych unit has large windows which offer a sweeping view of idle factory chimneys and active storage facilities and dingy attic apartments. On the day of her last eval, the sky was grey and furry with snow; fortunately for me, the south side of Chicago does believe in snowplowed sidewalks.

The psychiatrist tried to make conversation with N, pointing at the window: "Boy, you've been in jail a while. I bet that looks just like the garden of Versailles to you now!"

Way to break the ice! She nods; it probably didn't take her long to learn that she needs to accept their stupid jokes.

But he won't stop, he's got to say what they can never seem to stop themselves saying to her: "Boy, France sure is a beautiful country. I've been there a couple of times, it's just beautiful." Yeah, buddy, she really needs to be reminded of that. Not only is it beautiful, it's her home and she's in prison half a world away. You could hop on a plane and go to the baths of Constantine at Arles any time you like; she can't even go out there and run around the dead factories. She understands enough English by now that I can get away with letting this remark go untranslated, but from the look on her face she understands exactly what he said and feels the whole awful well-meaning brunt. What a bedside manner! Once again, I find myself wondering who hands these 'professionals' their credentials.

Now he gets down to work. He really does mean well; as he explains to me later, she's still a little wacky -- at one point in the interview she claims to have known Mayor Daly for years -- but he wants to declare her fit to stand trial so she can finally get tried and go home, since she has already served the two-year minimum between jail and the psych ward, and the Skokie felony judge wouldn't be cruel enough to sentence her to anything more than the minimum.

That's the scary thing I'm learning about the legal system: most of the people in it aren't actually evil or cruel, except for some of the rinky-dink cops. They don't need to be to do their damage. They're just bumbling, or stupid, or drunk, or overworked -- you wouldn't believe how many repeat intoxicated-driver shitheads they have to process per diem; those guys sure seem to get out of jail and back to weaving in and out of lanes in good time -- or hopelessly tangled in a nonstop loop of paperwork. (Not to mention the injustice of many of the laws they're instructed to enforce: shoplifting from Nordstrom's is hardly more of a victimful crime than pot smoking; it costs every investor what, one penny? -- which they'll surely make back with their overpriced made-in-sweatshops crapola.)

Every step of the process revolving around N has been shoved back and back and back for such reasons as a form which one day's public defender forgot to pass along to the next, or the fact that the psych ward seems to have lost her psychiatric records a couple of times. N's mom sent bond money to the state of Illinois so she could at least not have to be in jail in her condition; the state took the money but for some reason never did the paperwork to let her out. When she says something about that, the lawyers tend to mumble something that I can't translate for her clearly, because I don't fucking understand it myself, and I'm pretty sure the lawyer doesn't either. Once I even got paid to sit in court for an extra hour because the cops had brought the wrong damn prisoner out to Skokie instead of N, and we had to wait for them to go back and get her. The woman they brought didn't even speak French, and was rather insulted that people were speaking to her loud and slow. Awesome job, legal system! You meant to release the shoplifter, but you let Jeffrey Dahmer go instead! Woop, our bad!

Anyway, I digress; at the last fitness eval, N's delusions were basically under control, and she was ready to tell us what set her off in the first place, as soon as the lawyer quit unintentionally taunting her. And surprise, surprise, it was quite ironic. One of the nice things I found about France when I was there was that the French aren't quite as... steal-y as Americans are. I went into a night club -- mind you, this was a crappy little college town, not Paris, so don't try this in la Capitale, kids -- and my friend told me I could throw my coat and wallet in a corner. I looked at her like she was out of her fuckin' mind (imagine me saying this in a thick Chicago accent), but everybody else was throwing their coats and cell phones and god knows what, their family jewels, in a big pile in the corner. To be polite, I threw my coat on, but I kept my wallet in my pocket.

Because habit dies hard. I don't care how many kilometers you've put in on a jet plane. The same held true for N. She came here as a tourist, and made the rounds of DC and NYC and Vegas (why Vegas is anyone's guess, but hey), and finally came to Chicago, where to her delight her cheap hotel happened to include a swimming pool. She happily took off her clothes, in which were her wallet and money and ATM card; fortunately her passport had been left in her room -- without that, who knows, she might have gotten waterboarded. She left them all unlocked in the vestibule; she's not from the city, she probably didn't even think twice. Nobody stole her stuff while she was swimming; they waited till she was in the shower afterward, so they could take her bathing suit too. The security guy at the hotel just shrugged when she told him what happened; he probably thought she was a moron, and deserved the mishap for being spoiled by an easy life where people don't always walk away with everything you don't nail down.

So there she is, alone in a foreign country, and all her money is gone, and her swimsuit is gone, and what, considering what stage of the trip this was, were probably her last clean clothes. I don't know what she wore to flip out and go revenge-stealing -- her pajamas? I'm aware that some parts of her story don't make sense, and that she may have been lying, but I never heard the psychiatrist, who had access to her file, contradict any of it. Well, except the part when she started in on her personal friendship with Daley...

At any rate, at least she wasn't talking about her imaginary friends any longer. At her last eval, she claimed that she stole the clothes because she had wealthy friends that no one else could see, and they were going to pay for her clothes, but they disappeared as she was approaching the cash register, so she got confused and headed for the door. At the end of the day, she got two years for wandering out of a department store in a delusional state, carrying a couple lousy yards of fabric.

So here we are: it's finally her day in court, her real day in court, where she has to give up her right to a jury trial and mumble 'guilty' and finally go home. Some people from the French Embassy have FINALLY taken an interest in her; they're sitting in court, a hideously ugly Belgian-looking woman in a powder-blue cardigan and a snickering fellow who can't quit twitching. Good job, French Embassy; you're about as efficient as the State of Illinois. Just before they call her case -- as the cops are complaining because they already ordered their lunch and we were supposed to wait for the females till after the break -- the lawyer calls me over to the temporary storage area where they keep the defendants in glass boxes while they wait for their moment before the judge. He wants to talk to N to make sure she knows what's going on.

He explains to her that he's made a deal with the state to reduce her charges to a misdemeanor, considering her state of mind at the time of the crime -- they really didn't mean to keep her so long, and they're very sorry. He tells her that she can go home after the trial, that the embassy is there for her (now that she's going to go free anyway), and makes sure she knows that she needs to see a shrink the minute she gets home to keep up her medication schedule. We all stand up to go into court. It's her big moment.

And then: "Boy, I've been to France a couple times," the lawyer says. "Lovely. Man, it's beautiful. You've really got a lovely beautiful country to go home to." She looks down. She's lost two years of her life, her home, her family. I grip my file folder and squeeze my eyes, because I've got no right to cry; I've never been in prison, and it would just be unseemly and unprofessional. But someone is yelling... the yelling is getting louder... I open my eyes.

The glass box full of South American drunk drivers across the hall from us is ringing with the cries of males who haven't seen females in however long. They're making 'phone me' gestures with their thumbs and pinkies, yelling at me and N: "Take my business card, baby, I'll give you a job!... Hey, hon, when you get out of the joint let's get together!" Even the lawyer looks somber now. Sometimes I don't like my species very much. And on this note, N goes into the stuffy, dingy courtroom to admit her guilt.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Told you so

Hey, can I call 'em? The Boers and Bernstein show on Chicago talk radio just turned ten; it's the longest-running sports radio show in town. I wrote about them for the Reader, what -- nine years ago? Check the archive. But just so you know, I know what's goddamn funny, goddamn it, even if I'm a rejected shit-pile loser myself.

Andy Nowicki, me, and the huge joke called journalistic ethics

You know, I actually spent a couple of days wondering whether it would be ethical for me to write a review of Andy Nowicki's book Considering Suicide. After all, it was printed by Chip Smith's Nine-Banded Books, which is set to release my exile novel, NVSQVAM (Nowhere) late this year.

And then I remembered that DELETED BY GHOST OF MY INTERNALIZATION OF SENSELESS, INCONSISTENT, FAVORITISM-CORRUPTED CODE OF JOURNALISTIC ETHICS DESPITE THE LAUGHABLE OXYMORON. I'm sure ethics have contracted geometrically since then. So I'm good to go. And unlike gentle SHITBAG'S NAME DELETED BECAUSE I AM CHICKENSHIT, OR MAYBE BECAUSE I JUST DON'T SEE THE POINT IN PICKING A FIGHT WITH TOTAL PISSBURGERS, I have sucked down a couple of beers in order to be as vicious as possible in my attack on my label-mate. And not just because I like beer. This is on purpose.

Well, I wouldn't really call it an attack. Because I'm going to tell you first off that it is beautifully written. Compelling. I just read a short story by Nowicki which could have convinced me, in absence of this latter-day prodigy of long-past-the-point theology, that Nowicki could do no wrong.

And don't get ME wrong. My label loyalties aside -- and mind you, I'm a person who's loyal to a great, big, self-destructive fault -- you should do your boredom syndrome (I just made that up, but I really wish I had a PhD in psychology so I could sell it) a favor and read this book. Regardless of what you think about God, if you are capable of thought, it will make you think, and think again.

You may still be scratching your head over the fact that, while the book is called Considering Suicide, I've said you will have your thoughts provoked regardless of what you think of God. That's probably because I read the second half of the book last, as I usually do. The first half of the book is a beautiful novel about a desperately suicidal guy. The second is a theological argument.

Yeah, I know. Takes ya back, yeah? To about 1500. Theological... argument. The two hardly go together anymore. Lately you either get Foucault-type philosophasters who argue about language (which is interesting as hell, of course, but from an honest linguist's point of view, s'il vous plonk!) or religious nuts who think reasoning is tantamount to shooting god in the face.

Nowicki argues from the point of an agnostic who's as deeply doubtful as he is desperately hopeful that meaning, in the form of either accepting life (Christ) or rejecting it (Buddha) must exist. Even after I asked him to re-explain it to me personally, I either don't buy or don't completely understand his assertion that the statement "Life is meaningless" is meaningless, because it's tantamount to saying 'I am not saying this.'

He says that a claim that 'there is no truth' is a claim of truth itself, thus self-negating. Fair enough, but pointing out the fact that we have a conception of meaning, because the word meaning means something, doesn't mean that that meaning has to be anything in particular, including 'living for Jesus.' He seems to be reopening the door to the Camusian assertion that we must make our own meaning, which he argued down to the mat earlier in the book. And yet this is part of his key, closing argument for 'faith in faith,' which to his great credit he gives us the choice whether or not to accept as he finishes the book. The uncertainty of his theological 'conclusion' ties back into the uncertainty of the act of suicide (or putting down the pen?) which polishes off the first half of the book. He's having his cake and eating it in a way that he's a good enough writer to get away with, and to my mind, the fact that the second half of the novel is blatantly philosophical is a daring admission of the mission of a lot of fiction: to create a 'smear of meaning' by setting points of view against each other in order to try to triangulate the author's vague, terrible, subverbal suspicion of what life really might be.

If that doesn't sound like a fun read to you, then I haven't done my job, OR you are -- whatever it is you think about God, suicide, the meaning of life (having read this book -- layered as it is on top of Monty Python consumption -- I can barely type 'meaning of life,' since I now realize how much trouble I have getting my mind around the very concept, since in a way you could bend Nowicki's argument to say that every act or aspect of one's own person has a semaphorical function on some level that humans are incapable of comprehending, to wit:

Oh, christ, what if I'm only a sentence in an argument between Jehovah and Baal? AEHHEWJAWGGRGEHJEGHJRGEHRIU help me) -- really too smug in your opinion, and I hereby kick you gleefully in the crotch.