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Suuuuuuuuuuuuuper Geeeeeeeeeeeenius

Did you know, did you know, did you know that my friends are geniuses? Not all of them, mind you. There are some reading this very entry who will try to claim the mantle of genius or even supergenius, but they are really just superdorks. They know who they are, oh yes they do. And if they do not, I will be happy to send a devastating letter to that effect.

I had to go away on a trip, which I will write about at length later today, or perhaps tomorrow. That’s why the sad entry about terrible times lingered for so long at the top of the charts. The times they are a-terrible, no doubt about that. But to mitigate matters some, you can check out this cartoon by my friend who is a self-proclaimed genius, a self-proclamation that stands up to the cold eye of objective reality.

My eyes are brown and flash with the cold fire of objective reality. Flash flash flash.

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Donate. Vote. Do Something.

I just returned from a matinee viewing of Fahrenheit 9/11 and will spare you the overwrought analysis other than to say it is probably one of the most important films ever made. See it immediately.

I cried at several points during the viewing. Everybody did. It’s one thing to know your country is being run by a murderous fascist dictatorship, but it’s another to see several hours of relentless evidence. Tensions were running high.

After the show, as the audience filed out, shock and horror on every face, a screaming fight broke out between a man and the woman who sat in front of him and had apparently talked during the movie. The man threw the remainder of his drink in the woman’s face, then they started hitting each other.

“You’re a liberal!” shouted the man.

“You’re not even human!” shouted the woman.

Some other audience members tried to restore peace; some just stared, uncomprehending, at the violence and walked glassy-eyed out into the cloudy daylight.

We live in terrible, terrible times.

Donate. Vote. Do something.

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RIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCKKKKKKK!

Last night, following the example of Cara, Rob and I drove to the Egyptian-themed megaplex to see The Chronicles of Riddick, a movie that seems to exist only to provide excuses for people to scream, “Riddick!” with varying amounts of consternation. Riddick is a bad guy who is acting like a good guy in order to kill some even badder guys: the interplanetary version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He wears dark goggles for the sole purpose of dramatically tearing them off his head when he is confounded by something, and says all of his lines in what Rob called his “morning voice.”

In general, I thought it was an interesting movie spoiled by hokey dialogue. Or perhaps the hokey dialogue mitigates the pretension of the concept, averaging out to a tolerable experience. Although I would imagine that, like myself, many rational people would have the urge to walk out after the first five minutes, my advice is to stick it out. It gets better, and you’ll kick yourself if you miss the Valuable Life Lesson, which is this: If your name is Riddick, people are going to scream your name a lot with varying degrees of consternation. If your name is not Riddick, there is a very good chance you will die.

I recently saw an interview with Vin Diesel. He is a beautiful and hard-working man, and I often find myself wishing that the results of his labors were not so ridiculous. But they are, which is why when he said, with a straight face, that he had always wanted to work with Dame Judi Dench, that he had dreamed about it at night, I almost fell out of my chair laughing: I was trying to imagine Judi Dench saying the same thing about Vin Diesel, and I just couldn’t.

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Epidermis Schmepidermis

In an attempt to erase at least one ill-spent decade from my appearance (if not my life), I have been paying attention to my skin lately, cleansing and moisturizing twice daily.

My question is this: Do I look like the twenty-two year old the labels promised, or do I look like a thirty-two year old with unusually clean and moist skin?

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Long-Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply

There are signs in my neighborhood, privately financed and hung in alleys, that read “No Dumping—It’s the Law.” One might imagine an exclamation point after such an imperative, but it is barren, without punctuation. Even the em dash is something I added for the sake of clarity, and in truth, I thank my lucky stars that they remembered the apostrophe.

On the sign, “NO DUMPING” is large, bold, authoritative; it knows what it wants and what it doesn’t want. Does it want dumping? No, it does not.

On the other hand, smaller, huddled under “NO DUMPING” like an albino in the shade, “It’s the Law” is open to interpretation.

Is it apologetic? “I’m sorry, I really would love to have you dump here, but unfortunately there’s a law that says you can’t. I’m brokenhearted, really.”

Is it commanding? “See that where it says ‘NO DUMPING’? Yeah, well, you’d better listen, man, cuz it’s the LAW!”

Is it Republican? “It says you can’t dump here because there’s a law, but we all know how to get around those. Am I right? Just pass me a hundred bucks, and I didn’t see nothing.”

Is it Christian? “God’s law should also be the law of man.”

Or is it just ridiculous? I mean, is there anyplace in the country outside of a landfill where dumping is permitted? Sure, people are savages and will dump their garbage anywhere, but I don’t think anyone is laboring under the illusion that this is a sanctioned activity. Why spend good money on a pointless sign when there are people in the world who don’t even have “Support Our Troops” placards yet.

Oh, won’t someone do something about those treasonous monsters?

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Oh Sh . . . Uh, Shoot

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened; Faustus came to visit me in Baltimore. Notice that was a semicolon and not a colon: one of the previous phrases doesn’t modify the other. Faustus’s visit was not the unthinkable experience, but it made the unthinkable experience even more unthinkable by adding a cup of sheer embarrassment to the recipe.

Picture it: Sunday morning. Rob awakened me early to inform me that the drain in the basement, which has been regularly overflowing in minor gurgles since we moved in, had suddenly erupted with enough water and raw sewage to cover the floor. Horrified, I ran to the store to buy gallons of bleach, Liquid Plumr, and other cleaning supplies—but no sooner did I coax the raw sewage into a quivering pile than several more gallons of water burst out of the hole in the floor, redistributing my hard work to the four corners of the room.

Believe me, the reality was infinitely worse than the sanitized description you’re reading here. Seeing that I had no hope of containing the disaster, I ran and called Roto-Rooter, who sent over an extremely nice and helpful plumber almost immediately. Once he was on the job, I retreated upstairs and read the new Pottery Barn catalog from cover to cover, hoping to materialize in a beautiful world where houses exist in a pristine state without people or the terrors of fecal matter.

The plumber, while masterful at his job, was also extremely slow in performing it, and I watched in horror as the minutes ticked by and the arrival time of Faustus’s bus approached. Leaving Rob at home and praying that both the plumber and the sewage would be gone when I returned, I zipped across town to pick up Faustus; his boyfriend, E.S.; and his dog, A.

Long story short, I spent quite a bit of time away from my guests scrubbing the basement floor with bleach and spraying air freshener.

Luckily, they were understanding, but I can’t help but feel that I was being punished by the gods for my warped eagerness to demonstrate that civilized life does exist away from Manhattan.

“No, it doesn’t!” said the gods. In the old days, those gods used to send humanity messages in the entrails of ritually slaughtered livestock, but it appears that somewhere along the line, they decided that shit was both more convenient and infinitely more persuasive.

Update: I’m not supposed to tell you about how Faustus tried to walk through the screen door at my parents’ house in front of twenty amused witnesses. (The screen door was closed at the time . . . if it had been open, the witnesses would not have been nearly as amused.)

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N

I’ve become entranced by a freeware computer game called N, in which a player guides a miniature ninja through a series of increasingly difficult layers of a puzzle, encountering monsters that resemble olives with antennae and other horrors. The ninja is also a credible physics simulation, so the effects of gravity and of various sorts of explosions on his body are riveting.

It’s a difficult game, and the little ninja ends up dying numerous times as each level is mastered; To engage my mind as well as my index fingers, I’ve taken to giving each of my avatars a little backstory. On one level, my ninja was the most honored warrior in Japan, who came out of retirement to save the population from a terrible evil. When he was blown to bits, the warrior’s son stepped up to the plate to avenge his father’s death.

Nope.

By the time I finished the level, the ninja had assumed the identity of the warrior’s evil twin’s grandnephew’s gay ex-lover.

Who says video games don’t foster the imagination?

Update: Now that no less a personage than Madonna has changed her name, I feel vindicated in my impulse to change Goblin’s. How about Potato Jubilicious, Documentary Filmmaker?

Update Two: Everyone is getting in on the act. This just in . . . my car changed its name from Grey Car to Ellen Ettoinne, VIII.

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From Queens to Garderobes in a Trice

Today we will discuss toilets. Or, more specifically, as my new plumber calls them, “sanitary drains,” defined in this case as the pipe some Einstein left uncapped in my basement that has been spewing noxious bursts of water since we moved in to our new house.

Today we will discuss roofs: as I discovered in the last big rainstorm, ours leaks.

Today we will discuss masonry: our bricks need to be repointed (whatever that means), and the source of the brick chips that have been turning up on the front porch needs to be determined before the house disintegrates.

Today we will discuss hardwood floors: the one in my office is shedding bits of varnish, which stick to my feet and get dragged around the house.

Today we will discuss electricity: the outdoor lights have stopped working despite a bulb change, and lighting fixtures need to be updated from the horrid years of the Reagan era.

Today we will discuss paint: in four words, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

Today we will discuss walls: our bedroom is missing a rather crucial one.

Welcome to our home. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Queens across the Ages

I’m in the home stretch of a book about Queen Elizabeth I, a woman who because of her accomplishments was once one of my heroes. Heroes, however, rarely stand up to the floodlight of scrutiny. Ronald Reagan—celebrated so intensely these days for such laudable exploits as lowering taxes and dying in bed—was as President a barely mitigated disaster who subverted the rule of law, obliterated the social safety net, reduced the level of political discourse to that of children squabbling on the playground, overthrew legitimate governments, and of course, caused the deaths of dozens of thousands of people in Latin America and all over the world. None of this is apparent from recent coverage depicting him as the lone scourge Communism whose face should grace mountains and money. My hero!

And so it was with Elizabeth Regina, the much beloved Virgin Queen who encouraged religious tolerance despite Catholic plots on her life and who defeated the Spanish Armada with one dainty hand tied behind her back. In reality, far from being a player on the world stage, fortuitous things just seemed to happen around her, which she seized upon despite her legendary indecision, pettiness, and insecurity. Take away the crown and the dresses voluminous enough to reach the stratosphere in a gale, and you’ve got a day in my life.

Her courtiers were worse: bickering endlessly, gossiping cruelly, lying for political and personal gain, feigning illnesses and throwing tantrums to get their way, secretly knocking each other up and getting married, wasting millions of pounds on vain indulgences. These were not heroes or giants among men; they were the Renaissance version of the Bush Administration.

We create legends to make distant figures accessible. We project ourselves and our circumstances onto them and convince ourselves that, were it not for accidents of time and space, we would be with them or perhaps even be them. And this fantasy is so desirable that no one bothers to read the history books to discover the cruel truth that we already are.

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Bundles of Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

Rob and I were walking Goblin down an alley after purchasing pretty window boxes for our new house. “We’re doing the Gay Pride festival,” announced the woman who owns the neighborhood florist. In his shopping bag, Rob carried a Weekly World News that announced the discovery of homosexual aliens in the wreckage of a downed UFO.

“Look at that,” said Rob, gesturing toward a garage door.

In audacious, ugly letters, someone had scrawled the word “FAG.”

Some kind soul had crossed this out and written: “I love gay people. And bundles of sticks.”

And all was right with the world.

(The window boxes are being delivered tomorrow.)

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Isn’t There a Prescription for That?

The first production of my boyfriend’s work that I ever saw was a one-act “oratorio” called “Poodle Rescue,” performed in a Minneapolis theater. I had listened to it on CD long before, so I knew what to expect from the show, but never having been involved with anyone in professional theater, I didn’t suspect what would come afterward. At the reception, Rob, a celebrity, was mobbed by admirers, and I, an extraterrestrial, was shoved into a far corner, where I played a humdrum tournament of solitaire on my PDA until it was time to leave.

I wasn’t missed.

Flash forward two years: I’ve developed my theater legs. At the performances this past weekend, I hobnobbed with the movers and shakers of Minneapolis and consumed too many carbohydrates.

It’s a beautiful thing, feeling wanted. I suppose the little voice in my head whispering that they’re sucking up to me to stay on Rob’s good side will eventually fade. (Or switch back to providing step-by-step instructions for staging elaborate homicides of people who cut me off in traffic.)

As a rule, I’m uneasy in crowds because my mind is distracted by pinpointing who the Republicans are, but this is not to say that I don’t usually function well on my own. In fact, despite my ingrained misanthropy, I make friends easily and could chat with strangers all night long. So the mystery is not where my social confidence vanished to, but why it abandons (or, I hope, abandoned, past tense) me only in situations where Rob is on his home turf.

Just add it to the list of disorders I’m paying my therapist to shake her rattle at.

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Do This, Don’t Do That

There are signs, in Minneapolis, of signmaking. Many establishments sport newly minted placards declaring that they ban guns on the premises: a reaction, one can only speculate (if one is too lazy to look it up on Google), against recent legislative permissiveness regarding concealed weapons.

In other news, a local shopping center commissioned a hundred-foot monstrosity depicting a bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and a message in support of “our troops.” Forget for a moment that this juxtaposition coveys the idea that the country is being defended (or, in this instance, offended) by bald eagles and statues of liberty; wouldn’t a better way of supporting our troops be to use the money that went into this spectacle on something useful, such as USO packages or body armor?

Or, you know, not putting them in danger in the first place?

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Genetics

That I am a communist and not a Communist is belied by the fact that I was born to stand in bread lines. While, like everyone else, I dislike to queue, I manage to stoically survey a line of hundreds of people before finding my place at the very end of it. The most that will escape my lips is a quiet, “Oh, dear”—and then only if I’m in a dreadful hurry.

Yesterday, the queue for airport security stretched for some distance around a corner from the x-ray machines.

Those hoping to pass through saw what appeared to be a short wait then rounded the bend to find dozens of people who had already been disabused of that illusion. Every single one of the newcomers gave in to the irrepressible urge to comment on the length of the line. My favorite was a woman who kept exclaiming, “Holy smokers!”, as if she kept closing her eyes and reopening them to discover that everyone who had gotten there first hadn’t evaporated into the atmosphere.

This was clearly not the same woman who sat next to me at the gate and announced to her traveling companion (apparently her mother), “She’s a fucking bitch! I usually don’t talk like that, but I had to say it.”

“That’s not true,” said her mother with a beleaguered sigh. Her hair was coiled into a silver permanent, and it was unclear as to whether she disagreed with the idea that the unnamed person was a fucking bitch or that her daughter did not usually say such things.

“She is,” continued the first woman. “I told her there was an earlier flight. I told her! But she’s pretending I didn’t! She’s horrible!”

You’re horrible, I thought, but I was distracted by the arrival of a screaming baby that I just knew would be sitting behind me on the plane.

In that, I was mistaken: the screaming baby that sat behind me was a different screaming baby.

Holy smokers!

Update: I just received a political email with the subject “Genocide can be prevented,” and my first thought was, “No, it can’t.” Pop quiz: am I a pessimist or a realist?

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Tell Me What You Fear, I’ll Tell You What to Do

Last night, I went to dinner with Viki and Doug. Viki’s purse was actually a battered paper bag, and she made us stop on the way home so she could buy Scotch-brand tape so she could hang the Orlando Bloom poster she found in Tiger Beat over her bed so she could reach new pinnacles of pleasure in the bedroom. She is thirty-seven. Doug is my ex-boyfriend. He blinks infrequently. He used to be a monk who blinked infrequently but not anymore.

I live a block away from a railroad tunnel. In the darkest hours of the night, I can hear the trains quite clearly, giant sewing machines rumbling along the tracks, stitching in time. Often, there is a whistle, quite melancholic, as train whistles are. (I have yet to hear of one that is jazzy.) There are fools in the current “administration” whose “heart’s” desire is to transport dangerously radioactive nuclear waste by train through population centers on its way west, west, west. Where it goes, nobody knows, but I’ll bet it glows. Sometimes, when I flush the toilet, I imagine how the water (and what’s in it) shoots through the pipes, joining a vast network of excrement that flows all around us like the Force. That’s what it will be like lying awake at night listening to dangerously radioactive nuclear waste zip by.

Tomorrow, I’m going to Minneapolis, but I’ve got stuff to do first, oh yes, an entire list. One of the things on the list is taking Goblin to the vet to have her urine extracted. She will not like that, but she brought it on herself for refusing to go in the Tupperware. I must also pay all of the bills I have forgotten about for the past month.
I already paid for the urine extraction, though.

Update: Jesus said that if you call someone a fool, you will burn in hell. I don’t think this is very fair, as it is often the fool who is the worse person than the person who is merely pointing out this fact. George W. Bush comes to mind here. Not only is he a fool, but he blames all of his failures on the people who pointed out beforehand that his actions would lead to failure. I had thought Jesus was more sensible, but perhaps he is on the wingnuts’ side after all.

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Would I Still Smell as Sweet?

When I was five years old, my family had a guinea pig named Thomas, who lived in a tank on the fireplace hearth. My father also had a cousin named Thomas, who lived in a house someplace else. There was no connection between those Thomases; I am fairly certain they never met.

My youngest brother was born that year. My parents were going to name him Thomas after the cousin, but it was decided that this would prove too confusing because of the guinea pig. They instead named him Timothy.

On the other hand, I was named after my father, and it did not seem to occur to anyone at the time that that might be confusing: I have spent a lifetime being handed his mail and the telephone when someone calls to ask for him. I am currently investigating a business deal in which everyone involved, save one, is also named David and has the same last initial.

I have spent all of this time playfully renaming Goblin, but I think it is time to rename myself.

Any suggestions?

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Happy Anniversary to Me (and Goblin)!

I celebrated my “blogiversary” by cutting my toenails and throwing the clippings into the same trashcan I used yesterday for the prunings of my bamboo palm, Shamu Butterpot, P.I.

I spent the morning hoping that my DNA would combine with that of the plant, causing a genetic half-David, half-bamboo monstrosity to emerge and wreak havoc on this fair city.

A watched pot never boils.

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It’s Drizzling Men

Today, I refilled the windshield washer fluid in my car, a process that would have made me feel infinitely more masculine had it not taken me forty-five minutes to figure out how to open the hood.

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Tales of Woe and Cheese

I have spent too much time in the proximity of the disaster-prone Jwer: shattering a bottle of my favorite wine on the sidewalk and puncturing my arm on the back fence were just the beginning.

Yesterday, I was dive-bombed by cicadas, Goblin peed on the new mattress, and perhaps most distressingly, I ran out of cheese.

Today, my car was rear-ended, and the supermarket cashier who three years ago had a tongue-tied crush on me didn’t seem to know I was alive and didn’t ask me whether I would like paper or plastic.

He gave me paper when I wanted plastic.

I can’t help but think that this is the direct result of all those black cats.