september 30, 2003
Kids And Violence
september 29, 2003
As a child, I possessed an enormous toy armory. For my birthday, I always requested Weapons of Neighborhood Kid Destruction and my parents bought them for me.
I had several types of handgun, including a replica German lugar and a model of an eighteenth-century dueling pistol (although I was not allowed to take that outside). My own private arsenal also contained many styles of rifle too, I remember, models that spanned the ages from Little Bighorn to the beaches of Normandy. I had a machine-gun, also, that made a satisfying rattling sound. Best of all was a toy mortar that was capable of firing a whole potato over my mother's rhododendron bushes.
Anyway, this sanctimonious bore - and work creator - at my office recently informed everyone that he wasn't going to buy his child some popular toy pistol because he did not want to promote "gun violence". The poor kid, I thought, no doubt he is regularly beaten up by the other kids, justly, if he is anything like his father.
Meanwhile, I personally have never felt the need or desire to pick up a gun or rifle again, real, toy, or otherwise. I got tired of them when I became a teenager and moved on to other things. Alas, I am sure the guy at works kid will turn into mass murdering maniac.
Frankly I blame National Public Radio. Where do they find these people?
stephenb 09:55 - [Link] - Comments ()
Bad Morning. Naughty Morning.
september 26, 2003
There was an exposition of organized shouting taking place in Copley Plaza this morning as I left for work. I have no idea what it was all about: the Children of Mao, perhaps? It certainly sounded like them. Copley Plaza is disconcerting at the best of times. Home of the two hideous insurance salesman structures that dominate the Boston skyline: the first looks like a giant cheese grater with a pin stuck on top; the second, a tall glass envelope for humans that reflects the ludicrously ornate Trinity Church - "Here is the church, and here is the steeple, open it up and there aren't any people." Why? Because it is an Episcopalian Church, that's why, and we don't care anymore because being Episcopalian doesn't mean anything these days so nobody goes now. Meanwhile, the old library building is nice, but the new part looks like a cardboard box.
Anyway. Only 9:40am on Monday morning, but cannon balls of human waste are already bombarding the fan at extreme velocity. An unfortunate occurance, since I am rather hungover after an evening of Chow Mein eating and Mai Tai drinking hi-jinks at the Golden Temple last night.
Why does everything always happen at once? My schedule is empty tomorrow, so there is plenty of room for activity then, but it seems everything must be done now.
stephenb 09:51 - [Link] - Comments ()
At the Grocery Store .. oh yes, you know which one I mean
Fruit salad? Fruit salad? Surely, sir, you mean MELON salad!
A melon salad with a single rotten, stinking excuse for a grape thrown in, albeit submerged in a watery grave of rancid melon juice and ... in the name of God .. what is that .. that fetid horror?
stephenb 16:32 - [Link] - Comments ()
Indian Rope Trick
september 25, 2003
I am thinking of becoming a recluse, preferably a holy man type rather than your average smelly, outrageously bearded hermit. Sitting on top of my mountain, I shall dispense wisdom such as, "observe the ways of the snail and follow his example." Or even, "the wise man swims through the world like the cyprinoid swims through the frog pond."
Offerings of food from travelers and seekers will be welcomed, as long as they are well cooked, meaty and accompanied by fine wines of reasonable vintage. I will also accept gifts like golden trinkets and interesting examples of scrimshaw. On the other hand, I refuse to wear garlands or be perfumed. Neither will I be seen dead in saffron robes since the modern holy man is sponsored by Prada, I know so because God told me.
stephenb 09:53 - [Link] - Comments ()
september 24, 2003
French cooking will always be my favorite food, whether it is namby-pamby nouvelle cuisine or belchable bistro fare, especially if a fat little man with a Hercule Poirot moustache and a massive white apron is serving it while some voluptuous woman plays an accordion in the corner of a dark smoky room.
"That bottle of vin rouge, bring it to me, Marcel."
"Of course, Monsieur. Fifi is very good tonight, no Monsieur?"
"Yes she is, Marcel. I always like a woman wearing nothing but an accordion."
"Would Monsieur care for a Gitane?"
"Thanks, Marcel. And leave the pack will you."
"Certainly Monsieur. Please consider the palm of my hand to be your personal ashtray."
"Of course. Here. Keep the change."
"Monsieur is very generous."
Meanwhile a shifty-eyed man in a fez is trying to sell me black market Egyptian antiquities at a knock down price.
"I'll take three golden scarabs and a bust of Cleopatra. Deliver them to my hotêl tomorrow morning."
Unfortunately, the French restaurants near me are not quite like that, which is a shame.
stephenb 10:23 - [Link] - Comments ()
I rediscovered an old MS of mine last night: my version of the old Beauty and the Beast fable that I had written as an exercise many years ago and had shelved, unfinished, for numerous reasons. Reading through it again, I laughed out loud a few times, which was odd but also pleasing, since I recall thinking at the time that it wasn't very funny or very good. Also rereading it, I came to the conclusion that it is finished - it it's own way - and that there is a punch line of sorts after all.
september 23, 2003
Anyway, I have posted it below for the benefit of those with nothing better to do but read my juvenalia.
Beauties And The Beast
For the past few months the Beast had been abducting all the women in town. The Beast had started with the most beautiful woman and had swiftly moved on down the beauty chain.
Bill Price's wife was the first to disappear, as you might expect. "The Beast has good taste," we all agreed. Then Tom Fisher's wife went, which was reasonable enough if you liked redheads, and the Beast certainly did. Dick Powell's wife was next. "The Beast has obviously never heard of implants," we all sniggered.
Meanwhile the abductions continued. Eventually, by mid-September, only Ed Foot's wife and my wife were left. It was unkindly suggested that maybe our wives were not beautiful enough for the Beast.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I told people.
"Yeah. But the Beast's eye isn't too choosey," they replied.
Ed Foot actually forced his wife to hide in their house and pretend that she had already been abducted. But that fooled nobody. As for my wife, I told everyone that the Beast must be a connoisseur and was saving the best for last.
"Not bothered about scraping the barrel, you mean." They said.
I sometimes saw Ed Foot outside the hardware store on Elm Street. We never spoke, just nodded silently to each other and wondered which of our wives would be the last woman in town to be carried off to the Beast's lair.
Several days passed and there was no sign of the Beast. It seemed the Beast really wasn't interested in my wife or Ed Foot's wife after all.
"Must be too ugly." People said.
"I'm sure the Beast will stop by and abduct her any day now." I told them.
But the Beast never did.
Many guys became pretty smug after the Beast abducted their wives and drove around with bumper stickers bearing slogans such as 'My Wife Was Sixteenth' and 'Proud Husband Of Number Thirty-Seven'. But as time progressed they began to miss little things like home cooked meals and clean bed linens. Consequently, a motion was put forward at a Town Meeting that something should be done. It was proposed and passed that the Beast should be killed and the wives returned to their homes where they belonged.
We had heard eyewitness descriptions of the Beast on local news radio, and everyone knew the Beast wore knee britches, buckled shoes, a frock coat and a powdered wig on his head. "The Beast is a big fag," everyone said. Killing the Beast would be easy, it was agreed.
However, according to the ancient scrolls that were discovered stuffed behind the cistern of Professor Herbert's downstairs toilet, the Beast could only be killed with this root thing that you had to special order from Peru. Apparently you needed to whittle the root down until it became a sharp pointy stick, and then you had to fire the pointy end into the Beast's ear at close-range using a blowpipe or an old-fashioned peashooter. There was also this mystic oil stuff that you needed to anoint the pointy end of the root with, and that was an additional cost.
Bill Price and Dick Powell had been talking pretty big at the Town Meeting before the scrolls were found.
"We are going to find out what kills the Beast and we are going fill a big truck with it." They said. "And then we are going to drive the big truck all over town. And when we find the Beast we are going to unload the big truck. And then we are going to cram two-tons worth of whatever kills the Beast right up the Beast's asshole. That's what we are going to do."
Back then they thought either a simple wooden stake or a flask of holy water would do the trick. A few really gung-ho guys like Tom Fisher even suggested melting down Reverend Miller's silver Jesus to make silver shotgun pellets:
"I'm going to give that Beast both barrels through both his big hairy balls." He boasted.
Of course, when everyone found out about the root and the mail ordering and the postage and the international currency exchange, they all suddenly changed their tune. People stood around with their hands in their pockets muttering to themselves: "I'm gathering a mob brandishing flaming torches and we are going down the post office tomorrow. Or maybe next week. Whenever it is convenient. Soon as I can arrange a day off work I'm going to buy those air-mail stamps and send away for that root and the mystic oil and show that Beast who is the Boss around here. Any of you folks know where I can find the nearest Bureau De Change?"
A few days later it was rumored that the Beast had purchased three hundred and sixty-five tickets for an amateur production of Evita in a nearby town.
stephenb 10:44 - [Link] - Comments ()
I think the words of the Centurion quoted above may become a fixed feature of this blog. I find them incredibly funny. Can't think why.
september 22, 2003
stephenb 17:46 - [Link] - Comments ()
What A Piece Of Work Is A Man
september 19, 2003
Some days I am full of admiration and affection for my fellow man in all his infinite variety; but on other days, well, I feel like embarking on an orgy of mass slaughter and imprisonment that Stalin might think a little excessive. Look at them, toting their bulging shopping bags full of disposable crap, sliding their exhausted visa cards across a million counter tops, eating their double cheeseburgers and french fries and drinking their cokes, unwrapping their mars bars, licking their ice creams, cramming a muffin the size of a baseball into their mouths. Yet they do not smoke because they think it is bad for them.
Begone foul beasts!
Meanwhile, speak of the Devil, I have shamefacedly joined Netflix.
Netflix is an internet company that rents films on DVD. You pay them twenty dollars each month and they send you as many films as you want. They provide a stamped addressed envelope and there are no late fees. They are currently sending me Jacques Tourner's Night of the Demon, a film that seems unavailable elsewhere.
It seems to me as though I have been joining a lot of things of late. Strange, since, as a general rule, I am not a joiner.
stephenb 10:35 - [Link] - Comments ()
Ladizingennelmun, for your Edification un Delight, I Present ..Today's Blog Entries! Hurrah.
september 18, 2003
Exeunt all pretence of serious discussion followed by alarums
Since I neither drive a car nor ride a bike, and because I believe the only appropriate means of human transportation from A to B are the hovercraft and the hot-air balloon, the sole justification I can perceive for the invention of the wheel is to provide hamsters with a method of occupying their time.
A desperate friend of mine invited me to sign up for the online waste of time called Friendster. So I did. Now I find I am connected to the entirety of Central Asia through one friend. Fiendster, as it shall be henceforth known, insolently requires that you enter very personal details about yourself. Most of the form they provide has a drop down menu; therefore, under the heading "Marital Status" I was unable to answer "Divorced, Beheaded, Survived" as I normally do on such occasions. Oh well.
And here endeth the entry since it is raining outside and I am weary.
Farewell until next week.
stephenb 12:14 - [Link] - Comments ()
A Short Evaluation of the Relative Sanity or Lack Thereof regarding the MBTA
september 17, 2003
Above ground, where, such as along the University building lined thoroughfare called Commonwealth Avenue, the subway trains must conform to the same stop and go rules that govern regular automobiles, there are many indications that the Boston transport authority has been a stranger to commonsense for many years. Who but the MBTA would position a station directly after a set of traffic lights, like at St. Paul Street on the Green Line, thereby forcing the train to often make two sudden stops in quick succession? Surely it would have been logical to place the station at the traffic lights so the train only needs to stops once. Who but the MBTA would charge a dollar for fare but not accept dollar bills and not place change machines at many of it?s stations?
However, they did the possess the wisdom to name the line to left wing Cambridge the Red Line, and the good humor to call the line to studentville the Green Line, and the practicality to call the line to the Airport the Blue Line. But what on earth can the Orange Line refer to?
And so we come to the conclusion of our short evaluation of the sanity or lack thereof regarding the MBTA ? the verdict: the MBTA is a bit mad.
stephenb 15:21 - [Link] - Comments ()
september 16, 2003
I took an excursion into the alleyway behind my house where neighborhood cars are parked at enormous expense amid the gravel, recycling bins, nettles, ragwort and dandelion. I usually restrict such back door adventures to trash disposal, keying obnoxiously oversized SUVs, and those occasions when furtive escapes from my apartment are required. Today I departed via the rear since the hypochondriac who lives downstairs, and who is always prepared to bore me senseless with his litany of imagined ailments obstructed my regular method of egress. Imagine my pleasure then, when I let the door slam behind me, bent down to re-tie my shoelace and found myself eye to eye with a proud and fearless cricket had perched himself on the edge of a drooping leaf. He was an excellent specimen of the type an old-fashioned schoolboy might imprison in a glass jar. Fortunately I had an old Bolex 16mm camera with me and managed to roll off a few frames before he leapt away.
Perhaps I shall film some more urban entomology at a later date, after I have fabricated an appropriately ludicrous voice-over to accompany the footage I shoot.
Limited, maybe, but it will be better than the Discovery Channel, at any rate.
stephenb 13:39 - [Link] - Comments ()
A friend of my father's named George has kept every single issue of every magazine he has ever read. This is the same man who wallpapers the interior of his garden shed with a collage of all the junk mail he receives. The magazines, however, are stored in a series of large boxes in his basement, much to the chagrin of his second wife, whose name is - truthfully - Georgina.
The stacking and alignment of these boxes on the basement floor and along the walls has formed a type of cardboard labyrinth, an intricate maze through which the visitor can wander to their hearts content, perhaps to discover - as I once suggested to my father - George crouching in a corner like the Minotaur with a papier-mâché bulls head, reading Field And Stream from March 1964.
There are worse ways to spend your spare time, I imagine... such as blocking the tracks of a child's model railway with a lemon cough drop masquerading as frozen urine that has fallen out of a plane.
stephenb 17:04 - [Link] - Comments ()
september 11, 2003
I have of late been suffering much with my iMac and the devices extending from its plastic casing like puny, fragile tentacles from a lazy, sullen and particularly stupid octopus. In short, I keep crashing my computer.
Crashing - an interesting choice of verb - as if I had driven the computer very fast into a hairpin bend, lost control and collided with a tree. A more accurate word would probably be "seizure", as in "I'm sorry I will have to get back to you on that, my laptop has just had a seizure."
At work, first thing, I found myself seated at someone else's desk, yet still flanked by the familiar detritus of the morning: half eaten muffin; half drunk coffee; crumpled edition of Gazzetta dello Sport; a mousepad and a desktop icon.
As I pointed and clicked around the foreign computer screen, seeking the file that might be named something I would recognize, but also might not, I thought to myself, "Does anyone really know what they are doing? Does anyone really know why they are doing it? Does anyone really know what happens to what they are doing after they have done it?" It struck me that Samuel Beckett could have written a play called Krapp's Last Speakable Items Folder.
stephenb 16:19 - [Link] - Comments ()
Summer's Last Will And Testament
september 10, 2003
The reading of my uncle Thomas' last will was an occasion of singular interest to me since I had not witnessed such an event before, and, even more intriguing, I had been named among the beneficiaries.
Uncle Thomas had always been a remote and obscure figure. Rarely seen in person, his name was only invoked by my parents as the personification of worthless and dangerously eccentric characteristics; a dire warning of a potentially catastrophic future - "you don't want to end up like Uncle Thomas" I was often told - the most undesirable fate of all!
Having been the sort of man whose personal administration was not a subject dear to his own heart, my parents thought it unlikely that Uncle Thomas would have put his affairs in order prior to departure for the next world. Consequently they refused to attend the ceremony on the grounds that it would undoubtedly be a litany of confusions and therefore a total waste of time. My father in particular was disinclined to believe that Uncle Thomas could possibly have been "of sound mind" at any point in his chaotic life. Nevertheless, I decided to go and hear what the lawyers had to say. Uncle Thomas had never married and possessed no other living dependents except my immediate family.
Obviously I did not expect to receive much in the way of a financial bequest, but considered that anyone who had lived in his life in such an unconventional manner might have accrued a few objects of enduring oddness, which he might consider leaving to his only nephew.
As it turned out, Uncle Thomas' estate - if you can dignify it so without smirking - was left entirely in the hands of my father, as he feared it would be. Apart from my uncle's legal representatives on Earth, I was the only person at the reading of his will: "Bad luck," the legal people said to me, as I became the puzzled owner of a silvered commemorative fountain pen and three decrepit seascapes painted by someone who signed themselves "Grainger".
The seascapes each depicted a distinctly choppy and vacant sea, and each had a different colored violent sky: imagine Turner with a headache and no inspiration and you have some idea of the style, although it was rendered without skill or talent. God knows when they were painted.
"The frames may have some value," my father said sniffily when I showed the pictures to him. "Why don't you put them on ebay."
And so ends a life completed with nothing to show for it.
stephenb 16:59 - [Link] - Comments ()
Oh Happy Day
september 09, 2003
There is a new goldfish swimming around happily in her magnificent bowl placed atop the living room mantelpiece!
She is to be called Mimosa, which I think is a lovely name for a goldfish.
How, they ask, can I be sure that Mimosa is female? Truth is, I don't, and merely hope such feminine aquatic gender to be the case. When referring to fish most people employ the masculine pronoun "He", mainly, I suppose, because most fish look as if they are men; and grumpy old men at that. But I like to think we are different from most people: hence Mimosa is called a she.
Anyway, I have modified the fishbowl's obligatory submerged castle so that it now appears as a fairytale palace - far more suitable for a female fish than the ruined gothic stronghold it resembled when I bought it from the pet shop. Also, rather than the standard plastic Deep Sea Diver model, I have laid a fantasy mermaid figurine in the bottom of the fishbowl.
Our only problem now remains, what does a female fish eat when she is concerned about her waistline and hips?
stephenb 10:19 - [Link] - Comments ()
I possess more than a passing interest in ghosts since I am undoubtedly the type of person who will become one. And it is fair to assume that I will haunt the aisles of my local grocery store, Deluca's Market, doomed for eternity to seek a loaf of bread that is neither stale nor as moldy as the grave itself - a task that will certainly take an eternity if the current state of the store's shelves is anything to go by. I will be the phantom "Man In White" who is occasionally witnessed checking out the Sell-By-Dates before vanishing into thin air with a spine-chilling scream of despair.
But what sort of white thing will I be in? "You can't take it with you," as the old saying goes. Well, if you return to Earth as a ghost apparently you can at least bring your clothes along too. People who believe in ghosts must also accept the existence of ghostly shoes, coats, jackets, socks and so on. How else can sightings of ghosts in period costume be explained? But will the sight of spectral beings wearing Abercrombie and Fitch sweatshirts, baggy jeans and a pair of Nike sneakers scare our descendents stiff? It seems unlikely.
stephenb 14:25 - [Link] - Comments ()
Pluggers - The World's Worst Cartoon
september 08, 2003
A big fat fly, a prune with wings and legs, perched himself uninvited on the lip of my coffee cup, rubbing his spindly hands together with glee like a comic book villain reviewing his dastardly plans. It seemed as though the fly might dive into the cup, but then he suddenly had seconds thoughts and quickly flew away.
Even flies do not like the coffee I make, I thought, before noticing the Boston Globe on the table before me, opened to the comics page that features the single panel Pluggers cartoon.
Aha, so that was why the fly flew away!
Pluggers must be the unfunniest cartoon ever conceived of by the human mind - and it faces some pretty stiff competition. It appeals to the smug, self-satisfied good old boy and girl who believe themselves to be the Salt of the Earth with their ?can make do? attitude and acceptance of the most tawdry, cheap, and down home approach to life. This morning's effort features a humanoid animal throwing his clothes down the stairs; the caption simply states "Plugger's Laundry Chute."
Obviously, even the tiny fly brain finds this sort of thing tedious beyond all endurance.
stephenb 12:50 - [Link] - Comments ()
september 05, 2003
There is a documentary film playing at the moment about a group of criminally misguided zealots who called themselves "The Weather Underground." American college students who formed a murderous terrorist gang formed in the nineteen-sixties, they killed people in the name of peace, love and Bob Dylan. Here is filmed proof that self-righteous sixties radicals could be more destructive than Tartars, Barbarians and Huns combined.
Observing some of the campus organizations active today, one wonders how long it must be before similarly ill-advised, fanatic student groups emerge in our current climate of socio-political volatility. Not long, I imagine. Hell sometimes hath no fury like unwashed suburban youth wearing Che Guevara tee shirts and reading the collected dog-eared paperbacks of Karl Marx.
The interesting thing about listening to President Bush address the nation is that he must think the people are even more stupid than the people think he is. And since he is obviously right, perhaps he is actually quite smart after all. Who knows?
And then there is Senator Edward Kennedy, a man who can be acceptably described as a bovine oaf. His voice appeared on the radio this morning, full of such self-important, utterly banal windbaggery and total wrong-headedness that it beggared belief.
stephenb 10:27 - [Link] - Comments ()
Here we are in the year 2003 and there is still a distinct lack of domestic androids available to do chores and perform odd jobs around the house. Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs?
september 03, 2003
I have no qualms naming the guilty men - "scientists", that's whose fault it is that we still have to scrub our own floors and wipe around the back of the toilet every other week with a bit of wet rag.
I demand that by this time next year someone has built me a life-like robotic maid who speaks in a calm, metallic montone, and says things like, "Excuse me sir. I have been programmed to change the sheets on your bed today, but I compute that you are still occupying your bed. I will put myself into sleep mode and return later. Please select your desired time of awakening by activating the control panel timer located on my left breast."
stephenb 15:52 - [Link] - Comments ()
september 02, 2003
Outside Copley Place subway station last night a little old man sold Conan The Barbarian comic books on the street. White-haired and somewhat bedraggled, he must have been in his late sixties, the comic books arranged in a grid pattern beside him on a concrete bench.
"Conan's are here!" he announced to no one in particular. A typical salesman's pitch, but delivered with a strange, quietly strangled shout. "Conan's are here!", as if they had finally arrived after years of frustrating delay, freshly printed, hot off the press featuring the latest news that everybody craved.
Do people read comic books anymore? With the exception of the terminally adolescent it is hard to believe there is a market for them. I imagine that children must limit their reading material to either MacWeek, Nintendo News or Gangsta Rapper Monthly.
And that is a shame, really. As a young boy, I remember reading Dracula Lives and Dr Strange quite frequently. In many respects these illustrated stories were the instigating agent behind what became my passion for reading proper books. The same process must be true for many other of today's avid readers, and therefore the comic book has undoubted value beyond mere entertainment.
Nostalgia being what it is, had the old man been selling Dr Strange he would have made a sale, but since rippling muscles and swords never appealed to me, I strolled by without a second glance, hoping that someone with nostalgic Conan The Barbarian memories would stop.
stephenb 10:41 - [Link] - Comments ()
"God's Turban And Tutu!"
"God's turban and tutu!" was an exclamation of mild irritation my grandfather would often adopt; quite the bizarre image for an impressionable young mind to conceive, although, much like a centaur or some other fabulous being of myth, it merely implied that God was half this and half that; in this case, half Oriental sage and half ballerina. Actually, come to think of it, I can quite easily imagine God dancing pas de deux with each and every soul in heaven while quoting from scrolls of ancient Coptic wisdom.
Alas, nobody curses or swears with colorful originality these days. The vocabulary of exasperation has been reduced to a dreary stream of f**ks and sh**s. Whatever happened to "Zounds!", "Sblood!" and "Gadzooks!", all satisfying Shakespearian expletives evoking aspects of God's anatomy. Moreover, whatever happened to His turban and tutu?
stephenb 17:45 - [Link] - Comments ()
A Day At The Beach
At the shoreline we walked across gray sands, circumnavigating clumps of brittle seaweed the color of burnt, twisted and rusting metal. Overhead, a seagull picked fights with each low and scudding cloud, then flew down to inspect splintered planks of wood and fragments of rope imbedded amongst the pebbles. We walked on with our backs to the wind.
"What is the sea made of?"
A good question. It was black and evil today, as if the witches from Macbeth had tipped the dregs from their cauldron into it. Even the ocean air smelled like an old hag's armpit.
Against the sea wall, his face pressed against unreadable graffiti sprayed on the thick stones, a drunk was being sick into a paper bag. The tide was coming in. I wondered if he had the energy or inclination to move, or would he simply be swept away and drowned.
We were approaching the chemical plant perched on the headland.
"Let's go back it's starting to rain."
"No it isn't."
"Not rainy rain, the other kind."
I tried to skim a flat pebble but it sank without trace.
stephenb 10:15 - [Link] - Comments ()