Thursday, November 28, 2013

Invisible Earphones -- "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)"

Every day I wake up and hear music playing in my head. I don't actually hear it, but you know what I mean. I get up, take a shower, and all the while a song is playing. It might be "The Ecstasy of Gold," it might be "Rebel without a Pause." If I'm lucky, it won't be "We Are Young."

I've had tinnitus for the past three days. If that worthy tries to ring me back tomorrow, my number is 222-2222, and I have an answering machine that can talk to you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Invisible Earphones -- "Iron Galaxy"

Every day I wake up and hear music playing in my head. I don't actually hear it, but you know what I mean. I get up, take a shower, and all the while a song is playing. It might be "Fur Elise," it might be "Ride the Lightning." If I'm lucky, it won't be "Call Me Maybe."

"Let's talk in layman's terms, rotten apples and big worms..."

That song isn't going to get much play in Madison Square Garden during basketball games. In the same (cold) vein as Nas's "New York State of Mind" and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," it spray-paints a picture of the hell of poverty in an urban environment, and in doing so, it creates art out of despair.

Broken glass everywhere.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Invisible Earphones -- "Girls"

Every day I wake up and hear music playing in my head. I don't actually hear it, but you know what I mean. I get up, take a shower, and all the while a song is playing. It might be "Fur Elise," it might be "Ride the Lightning." If I'm lucky, it won't be "Hey Mickey."

This shit is dumb, and cold getting dumber. In case you haven't heard, a toy company, GoldieBlox, released a commercial that, depending how you look at it, appropriated/parodied/swiped "Girls," a song from the Beastie Boys' 1986 album License to Ill. The Beasties' lawyers sent GoldieBlox a letter explaining that the late Adam Yauch (MCA) wrote in his will that he never wanted to have Beastie Boys songs used in commercials, and then GoldieBlox preemptively filed in court for a ruling. My law vernacular is probably off there, but every site I've read has been claiming that GoldieBlox is "suing" the Beasties. To be clear, GoldieBlox is not looking for money from the Beasties camp. They've probably made enough from this bullshit "controversy" already.

First of all, how the hell does a song that's 27 years old create controversy almost to the exact date of the album on which it was released? Secondly, Yauch and the rest of the Beasties long ago disowned the misogynistic lyrics on License to Ill to the point where they wouldn't perform most songs off the album in concert*. That worked out pretty well for them; they smartened up fast, abandoned the faux frat-core scene they created, and carved out a legacy that spanned four decades.

So why is this an issue? I can't speak for the dead, but I have a hard time believing that Yauch would be against a song that he disowned** being repurposed into a parody, even if it ultimately is for a commercial purpose.

The commercial in question is a parody, by the way, and I find it really weird that this is even a thing, that hip-hop groups (or, rather, their corporate counterparts) would take issue with the very thing that founded hip-hop: sampling.

Both parties should stop fighting for their intellectual rights. Because they're both wrong.

* They also didn't include the hip-hop masterpiece "Paul Revere" on their greatest hits compilation, The Sounds of Science, ostensibly for what Ad Rock did with a Whiffle ball bat to the sheriff's daughter.

** Those lyrics are actually very tame, almost sweet, until the song ends with the Beasties' wishes that girls would do their dishes, laundry, and clean up Ad Rock's room. You can't go back 27 years and call that song overly misogynistic when you have Yeezus and "Blurred Lines" getting play in 2013.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Invisible Earphones -- "Holiday in Cambodia"

Every day I wake up and hear music playing in my head. I don't actually hear it, but you know what I mean. I get up, take a shower, and all the while a song is playing. It might be "Fur Elise," it might be "Ride the Lightning." If I'm lucky, it won't be "Hey Mickey."

But my brain radio is always on-air, and I can't call in to request songs; my subconscious mind is the DJ, and he plays whatever the hell he wants.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trick or Treat like Semtex

(image source)

Fol Chen - 200 Words

     A few years ago, more or less, during a hospital stay owing to a few broken ribs, fractured ankle, and acute stress disorder, you came across a heartwarming article while surfing the web. At the time, such pursuits seemed an ideal manner by which to whittle the hours away because television was overrated and family, however well-intentioned, could endure only so many hours a day of seemingly disjointed ruminations pertaining to a topic they may have grasped -on some level, at least- but nevertheless allowed to slip through their cerebral fingers. In hindsight, the misgivings exhibited were entirely defensible.

     Oddly enough, you stumbled upon the article in question during a foray into, of all places, the trough better known as Buzzfeed, a gutter better recognized for quirky cat pictures and Robert Pattinson's dating disasters than inspirational tidbits but sometimes a girl takes whatever she can get, and Buzzfeed notwithstanding, it was a pretty good find. The story had been about the birth of two cheetah cubs, sort of, insomuch that technically there were four but only two survived, so it was obviously more complicated than that particular summation. The point being, such a touching tale would have been forgotten entirely had it not been for a rap, rap, rapping at your door about an hour ago on this, a chilly Halloween in an area where few children went trick-or-treating. This is Kirkwood Heights, after all, and community college housing isn't known for its kid-friendly atmosphere, but there was a knock so you answered, Tupperware bowl full of fun-sized Butterfinger bars in hand.

     She took a handful of treats, of course, but the woman who had shown up at your door is neither a child by any gratuitous stretch of the imagination nor someone you would have anticipated seeing again, as in, ever, on either account. But there she was, duffel bag in one hand, Butterfingers in another, this vestige of a stilted reality long since miscarried, though not one wholly unrecognizable. She offered a greeting of sorts, to which you had none prepared, though she didn't seem to mind.

     A few years ago, more or less, the woman proposed, in so many words, that a sealed maw becomes either a womb or a tomb for all things enclosed; that fate was serendipity passing itself off as a beast in god's clothing; and that the time had come to knock a few teeth out. Shortly thereafter, you found yourself splayed out upon warm concrete, coughing up blood and wondering just who, what, when, where, why and how an athlete on the cusp of seventeen could manage to be outrun by a man bearing sockets instead of eyes. You had been advised to resist the siren song of hubris prior to the beginning of the end, but you've always been a bit thickheaded, honestly. Then again, in terms of a heads-up, something clearer than an inscrutable reference to Mr. Brightside WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE.

     The woman steps out of the shower, body glistening amidst the steam and utterly unfazed by your presence in the doorway. As she goes about drying herself with your favorite towel, you can't help but notice a myriad of minute, delicately jagged, almost phosphorescent orange lines chaotically etched upon and spread across her slender frame, though curiously, the woman's face remains unspoiled. Now, the tally marks carved into her forearms, they come as no surprise, but these saffron fissures are something new. Trepidation notwithstanding, you make the obligatory inquiry.

     "Oh, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny!" she quips, running her fingers through a sopping mane of hair dyed black as a crow's feathers. "All the god's hunger and all the god's woe mangled little Ms. Megan before letting her go. Everybody knows that."

     What made the story about the birth of two cheetah cubs so uplifting was, to an extent, the unlikelihood of its occurrence. The firstborn cub came into this world well before the second, third and fourth emerged; unlike their predecessor, the unfortunate trio had to be removed, stillborn, via cesarean section and the staff labored for nearly three hours, attempting to resuscitate the cubs through CPR, medication, and heating techniques. Then, something unexpected transpired, something best described verbatim, though you remain uncertain as to why it's suddenly so readily remembered:
“Given how rare this procedure is, we thought it’d be unlikely for any of the cubs to survive,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist. “But that little female is a fighter. Once we got her breathing, she just kept going. It was a very intense, stressful experience, but among the most inspiring of my career.”
     The woman whose name, you now believe, is Megan has slipped into a matte-black catsuit; atop that, a flimsy, flowing gown of similar hue. Seemingly satisfied with what she sees in the mirror, the woman currently identified as Megan begins applying paint to her face, neck, and ears, ostensibly oblivious to the inherent peculiarity of the situation.

     Upon warm concrete at the onset of the end, owing to a few broken ribs, fractured ankle, and a slew of hysteria, you struggled to inch away from the man bestowed with sight sans eyeballs; a man devoid of humanity, per se, wielding a raised machete that glimmered in the simmering shades of twilight. You vaguely recall screaming up blood, arms held up so as to shield yourself from the inevitable, but also, in the briefest moment of dissociative clarity available, pondering, Does a blade shine in the dying light? 

     The brilliant shade of yellow, as it has been applied to the woman's face, contrasts with the preponderance of ebony so drastically that even here, beneath the soft, white glare generated by compact fluorescent tubes, the sight of it reminds you of staring into a space heater as a child; a mild sensation of nausea coupled with unyielding fascination abounds.

     Does a blade shine in the dying light? is what had been asked right before the end, but the crazy thing about questions is that sometimes the answers arrive in the most unexpected of forms. You remember the blade's descent slowing as the flickering light reflected in it increased, and that the man's face tilted ever so slightly as though he were mulling over a quandary of sorts, albeit one related to your own. The thing is, the woman now known as Megan had offered up an additional, almost conciliatory piece of information before the end began.

     Structurally sound analogies, much like poetry and bean burritos, have always been foreign concepts, sure, but as you stand in the doorway watching Megan fiddle with the black sclera lens placed upon her left eye, you can't help but wonder, accuracy be damned, if she isn't more than a bit like that second, female cheetah cub. Had nature been allowed to take its habitual course, neither would have survived their respective ordeals; and sometimes, nature can go fuck itself because what she also told you, after you had volunteered, somewhat foolishly, for the role of slipshod harbinger is that, come what may, the man with no eyes was at the very top of her list.

     Facing you, she requests an evaluation and truth be told, beyond an awkward shrug and chuckle you aren't sure what to say but in light of what could have been, things don't look all that bad.

(so keep your bankroll lottery eat your salad day deathbed motorcade)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Katherine (Excerpt Later)

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a story about a young woman who tried to eat a bicycle. That premise has stayed with me over the years. Continuing the tale has proven as hard for me as you might imagine chewing and then digesting a bicycle might be, but I still think there's a story there -- not about a girl eating a bicycle, but about the girl who tried to eat a bicycle. This is my attempt to reacquaint myself with Katherine.

The guy sitting next to me won't stop scratching his ankles. First the left, then the right. It sounds like coarse sandpaper on driftwood, in stereo. I try to ignore it by looking out the window, but the sun's morning glare is so stark that I have to push the window most of the way closed, and then all I have to look at is a two-inch gap, beyond which lies the plane's wing. Not the best scenery. A flight attendant with a bob of hair shaped like the Liberty Bell and dimples that paradoxically shout demure and disdainful walks down the aisle, and I ask her if I might have a vodka and orange juice. We're going to take off soon, I'm assured, again, and I can order a drink when we're safely off the ground. It was worth a shot. I grab a travel mag from the pocket in front of me, behind the seat of the passenger in front of me, and, soon, hopefully, 35,000 feet in the air. And maybe I'll buy a miniature cuckoo clock. For kicks. Maybe I'll buy a Chanel compact and later try to use it as a hockey puck.

We start to taxi. Ankle Scratcher opens the Wall Street Journal that had prior been lying half on his lap, half on mine. The top corner of the paper brushes my temple, no apology, and instead of screaming I look at the sterile, inoffensive cabin ceiling, screaming through my eyeballs at a god that never answers the phone when I'm at my most annoyed. The irony of flying, at least symbolically, is that reaching the heavens tends to be more like a descent into hell.

Our pilot comes on the intercom to further explain the delay, and I try to throttle him with my mind. It doesn't work. Then I try to telekinenetically abscond the Arrow pen from the breast pocket of the sleeping gentleman sitting across the aisle, with which I hope to manipulate and thrust into the eye of Itchy Ankles. Again, failure. Resigned, I slump in my seat and watch the flight attendants go through their safety routine. They look like robots doing underwater calisthenics.

A kid tries to go to the lavatory and is ushered back to his seat. He promptly pees his pants and begins crying. I pretend I'm sleeping in a tauntaun's bowels. No one can be completely sane on an airplane, although some people are better than others at pretending that they are. Flying cross continent might be fast, but only if your definition of time doesn't include all the bumps that make it so slow.

And yet...and yeti...spaghetti...

I'm awoken from a nightmare by a jolt. I feel like throwing up. My window is up, and the sun looks like an egg yolk threatening to burst and cover everything in dark yellow. Behind me I hear a goat bleating. I rub my eyes as the plane lands. Land. Terra motherfucking firma.

"Shit," my seatmate says, "seventeen minutes to make the gate? Give me a break! Where are you heading?" he asks me.

"Home," I say, but it sounds more like a question than an answer.

"Anyway, good flying with you. What's your name?"


"Pretty name. Have a good one, Catherine."

And we start to deplane. It's 5 AM on a Thursday morning. I'm finally coming...home?

"I saved your breakfast because you were sleeping," says the Liberty-Bell-haired stew as I try to exit. "I can reheat it for you to take with you if you want."

"No, that's okay," I say. "I'd sooner eat a bike tire."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hell of a Thing

Note: This began as a Facebook message to the patently talented and tantilizingly pantless Kmork. Whenever I write a message more than a few paragraphs long, he admonishes me with the reply, "Save it for PK!" I have done so.

I'm a pretty big vengeance guy. If someone (an animal is a tougher call for me) were to harm a person/people close to me, I don't think anything could stop me from wanting revenge. I also, at least ideally, support the death penalty, although I admit that, because of all the innocent people sentenced to death, I can't support it fully. But if there is absolutely no question that a person is guilty of murder, I believe that they deserve to be killed. (I also acknowledge the quandary faced by the person assigned to perform that task if he/she is unwilling to do so, as well as the potential for their regret in doing so after the fact.)

Take Anders Breivik as an example. That motherfucker murdered 77 people, mostly teens, and yet he gets a maximum 21-year sentence. Granted, the Norwegian legal system contains a provision which pretty much ensures that the guy will remain in prison for life, but they also have perhaps the cushiest form of imprisonment in the world. Do you think that asshole regrets what he did? I'll bet he doesn't even feel put out the least bit in his daily life. I don't have any connection to what he did, but I would 100% hang him myself if I were able to. I might feel weird about taking another person's life, but I'm sure I'd get over it when reminding myself of all the trauma he inflicted on those kids and their loved ones. The same goes for Paul Bernardo in Canada. He raped dozens of women, then went on to torture and murder at least 3 young women, one of whom I grew up living less than a mile away from in an area that I and my friends frequented as kids. He's currently in segregated confinement. Apparently the fucker has his own TV.

The most common (or at least the most knee-jerk) answer to the hypothetical question of what one would do if he/she were able to go back in time and change something in history is "kill Hitler." I would do exactly that if given the opportunity*. Because I think human life is the most important thing in the world, and anyone who takes that from another does not deserve to continue living.

I will acknowledge that some people are simply born that way, however. A lack of human empathy is what leads serial killers to murder; and for some fucked-up reason beyond my ken there are people who are compelled to rape or molest children. I'm not suggesting that the pre-crime society of Phillip K. Dick's Minority Report or the eugenics-based one of Huxley's Brave New World are necessary in dealing with these evils**. More advanced mental health awareness, for one, is paramount; and while I personally am very cynical about the pharmaceutical industry, I wonder if someday there might be vaccinations that could largely eliminate or eradicate such societal ills in the same way that we have polio and smallpox.

But once a person goes from dark thoughts to black deeds, I don't believe they deserve to exist any longer. In my General Store of Ethics, I have a strict "no refunds" policy.

[Thank you for reading my essay.]

* Which is why I find Inglorious Basterds so great, because it vicariously fulfills that fantasy, although I realize that the film also poses a similar question that Kmork wrote about vis-a-vis vengeance.

** That's a loaded word, I know; but "problems" seems a little too milquetoast in this case.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

You Two Can Learn How to Darw (5ive Easy Spets)

I got into a pretty heated passive-agressive argument* with a game developer the other day.

I started it by bringing up the modern saw that games get released bugs and all, and screw perfection, whereas novels, etc. tend to have fewer errors on day-and-date releases.

His response was that if there's a mistake in a game, it can ruin it, but if there's a typo or missed punctuation mark in a piece of writing, it's still understandable; it's flawed, but you can continue with the story.

My response: "Plenty of people make broken games. It doesn't mean the job is hard, it means the people making broken games are unqualified. If I read a typo in an Associated Press article, sure, I have the story, but it's stilled marred by amateur writing. It still has acne. It's still kind of ugly."

"But you can make one mistake and it still works. If I make one it doesn't."

"You guys make so many mistakes, though. If a doctor has to do heart surgery on a patient, he can't wait five weeks and do it again after messing it up the first time."

"You have it so easy, though. You can use spell check and so on to make sure you didn't make a mistake."

"Are you sugar about that hat?"


"I said, 'Are you sure about that?'"

"I think so. Are those shoes real suede?"

"No, their fake. I brought them form waht I taught was a tursted olnine website, burt my cerdit crad nubmer was sloten."


"But ask me that question in a couple of weeks. My shoes will be pure leather, and I'll have enough time to go back and fix every other mistake I made."

* Case, meet point. Now kiss.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Rantastic Damage (Redux)

It's late and I'm bored, so here we go.

You know, for years now, every now and again I tell myself it's worth playing Final Fantasy XII, and every time I do, I quickly realize how much I loathe the game. The problem is that there is a lot to like about the game, but its major flaw is too hefty.

Ultimately, I can't forgive a real-time RPG that allows some bosses to erect invincibility barriers for minutes at a time, while allowing those same bosses the full range of attacks during that same period. That has to be one of the fucking dumbest and laziest imitations of a challenge imaginable, and the question isn't whether it's possible to overcome said deficit, but whether it's worth overcoming.

Nevertheless, I wonder how the meeting went for that one.
Project Leader: How can we make the game more challenging? Developer A: We could make certain bosses susceptible to a type of weapon, or maybe a certain string of attacks. Something unique. Project Leader: Sounds like we'd have to put our brains to work. Any other suggestions? Developer B: We could just allow the bosses to become invincible for randomly determined periods of time. Project Leader: Give that man a raise. Who's ready for happy hour?