Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reasonable Superheroes

Huge Penis No Personality Man

Summoned into existence by the collective will of men with average sized penises and above average insecurity, Huge Penis No Personality Man is a tool with a purpose. Just as parents have allowed the proliferation of Santa Claus in order to control their children's behavior, Huge Penis No Personality Man is created to control their fragile egos. His goal is to keep the men who created him comfortable with their girlfriends and spouses, even though they had one or several or more than several flings with men based on the unlikely size of their genitalia, which they sheepishly admitted when they assumed that their boyfriends or spouses were emotionally mature and able to handle such a revelation. How does Huge Penis No Personality Man accomplish this difficult task? By roaming the earth giving as many girls as possible the most disappointing night of their lives, despite his impressive package. He seduces them with his "man of few words" charm that belies the fact that nothing is really going on in his head at all, then once in the bedroom, after requiring 45 minutes to become officially inflated, he performs for exactly 1 and a half thrusts, then makes a great big and complicated mess, pelts her with a box of tissues and falls asleep. Then he wakes up and talks about the weather all morning, oblivious to all of the hints to leave her apartment. She then passes him off to all of her friends to see if they have better luck... after which they decide that all men with party favors for a dick are simply not worth it. They then finalize and perpetuate this belief by discussing the subject in a cold, sarcastically scholarly and judgmental "Sex and the City" format, which is what these men assume all women must do. That is where these men imagine their partners deviating from sitcom franchise dialog and each take turns mentioning their current partner favorably with very little segue but somehow it is not at all awkward. The imaginations of these men need many, many superheroes.

Captain Call-Out

Meet Brent. If Brent could describe himself in two words, they would be "No excuses", but you should know this because it is on his Facebook, which he updates hourly to remind you to stop wasting your time on Facebook. When Brent takes to the streets, he changes his name to Captain Call-out, fighter of crime so heinous, most of us are perpetrators of it and we don't. Even. Know. Captain Call-out is here to let us know. He is the new definition of selfless... he is the pale shadowy figure who actually confronts you on barely perceptible faux pas and negligibly minor wrong-doings, often with a preachy and distinctly liberal agenda.

After putting in a 13 hour day, you are about to hop on the subway and you lean against a building to have one last cigarette before going underground. "Excuse me, m'am, what do you think you are doing there with that cigarette? That building you are leaning on is a restaurant. A FAMILY restaurant. There are children in there." Children said in that tone of course warrants the attention of those passing by. It's the "CHUH" sound that pierces through the white noise. You try to defend yourself with logic, but he only says, "Yes, I see there is great distance between yourself and the door but I don't trust that those windows right over your head are airtight. I know it may not be too big a deal to you but, well, I guess I'm just not as jaded to the human condition as you are." BOOM! That just happened. And you have nothing to say in response other than that you legally have the right to smoke at that distance from the entrance. Only after he walks away in disgust do you realize how much like a soulless minion of the tobacco companies you just sounded. You spend the rest of the day feeling annoyed, and then mad at yourself for even being annoyed at something so stupid... or did he have a point? You wish you could have thought of a comeback. Captain Call-out knows when you've had a long day and you aren't in the frame of mind to deal with that you may call "trivial bullshit". Well TOO BAD because The Captain is ALWAYS ready to call you out.

You go to a new restaurant by yourself for dinner. You feel a little bit self-conscious being the only person there alone, and the hostess is seating you by the window in the middle of all the couples... the type of couples with aggressive boyfriends who insist on sitting by the window because it shows that they are in control or something... after spending a minute twitching and adjusting in your seat, you stutter as you tell the waitress you'd like to move, BUT THEN! Captain Call-out interrupts his own date to single you out. "Oh don't worry, we're not judging you. There are plenty of perfectly acceptable reasons to be out on your own tonight. More importantly though, why would you think we are judging you, unless you are prone to passing the same judgment on everyone else. And by the way, way to make the waitress push through the tables to bring your water and menu before you get the guts to decide to awkwardly push back through, just so you can quell your insecurity." Just as you push out a self-deprecating laugh to mitigate the awkwardness, he says, "And trying to use laughter to mitigate the awkwardness is both pretentious and predictable. And try not to stare at all the same girls you checked out on the way in, you're so obvious it's pathetic." Not knowing what else to do, everybody applauds his rant. Rather than find a new restaurant, you sit down and order your food mostly out of stubbornness and you don't want to seem like you're once again second-guessing yourself, though you're no longer hungry. You just sit there staring as your food gets that translucent gloss as it cools, wondering if he had a point.

You're at a party passing a joint around and it's down to the charred lip-searing end. You decide that it's kicked but just as you put it out in the ashtray, Captain Call-out breaks from his conversation about awesome local bands that you ought to know about to ask "Hey, what do you think you're doing, man? You think that was done? There are people who would give anything to smoke what you just carelessly discarded. Anything, that is, except money, because they don't have any. I noticed earlier you said you only work part time, I guess your parents are paying for college? It just pisses me off when spoiled kids make decisions for everyone else but consider only themselves. You wouldn't last ten minutes on the street, dude." Without thinking you try to salvage the situation by saying your parents aren't paying your tuition and that are on academic scholarship, but that backfires, he easily spins that to make you look spoiled AND arrogant. Caught with all this off guard, all you can say is "What's your deal, man? Chill out!", so now you look spoiled, arrogant, and inarticulate. Since nobody wants to talk to you and you're too high to drive home, you have plenty of time to sit and wonder if he has a point.

He's read every book and seen every documentary... and if he hasn't seen it, it's because he knows that it was biased because it was funded by big corporations under a different name. Everybody asks themselves "is he a good guy or is he a bad guy, is he a good guy or a bad guy"... which is good that people ask themselves that because if they asked out loud he would accuse you of trying to assign him a label, which he wouldn't take kindly to. You ask yourself how he came to be in the first place, well you know there is no need to ask, because there is a little bit of Captain Call-out in all of us.

Part II

He has an on-and-off romantic entanglement with evil super-villain Debbie Downer, ruiner of all good vibes, doubter of all good-intentioned but maybe a bit unlikely initiatives, the nurturer of ambivalence towards ambitions... Debbie likes him because it would piss off her parents if they didn't commit suicide after she told them what she wished for on her 16th birthday. He is turned on by her contrarian positions, as well as her unique availability to him. Ruining all other relationships with her Scepter of Skepticism, The Captain remains undeterred, writing really lousy indie music about her that he mercifully only plays for her. She is exhilarated in her campaign to sabotage a strangely healthy relationship with someone who actually likes her for who she is. No man has ever been able to maintain an erection in her presence. No man, that is, except for Captain Call-out. In fact, the more she doubts and talks about how it is such a bad idea for them to be fucking, the more embarrassingly soon he turns into Captain Pull-out. Determined to satisfy her, he convinces her with his usual guilt process that so turns her on to try instead taunting him with that which neither of them can stand: empty upbeat mainstream culture. So she prints out the Yahoo News homepage off his Mac Book. The more she rambles about "Dancing With the Stars", real estate market optimism in annoyingly remote towns, the last few Meryl Streep movies, The Green Movement, the harder he has to thrust to continue. She had her first 46 orgasms that night, and the streak would continue for weeks... but deep down inside, Captain Call-out suspected that he hadn't changed her. This and much more was confirmed one day when he showed up at her place and found Huge Dick No Personality Man curled up in a ball naked and gently sobbing in the corner. "You tried having sex with him, didn't you." She didn't even look up when she shrugged out, "I was curious." Wistfully, Captain inquires, "But what about us?" Then she looked right at him, with a single arch of her black hair reaching angstfully over her right eye, "I didn't think anything was going on, I mean in the grand scheme of things." He now knew that it was doomed, that she was too jaded and that he grew to despise jadedness. It became his weakness... a bias. It was only a matter of time before someone triggered this and set him off.

It's a windy day and you are finished with your banana. You walk well out of your way and you drop it into a bin, but a gust of wind takes it off course and it lands in a nearby pile of sludge. You pretend not to notice as you walk away. You think "Whatever, it's biodegradable. Maybe the garbage man will pick it up. I did more than most people would to properly dispose of this banana." But that is not what Capt. Callout thinks. According to the police report, which was gathered from eyewitness testimony, Capt. Callout said: "What were you just going to leave that there? Huh? What were you thinking, Jeeves? 'Oh, it's just one banana peel, it's not a big deal'. And that's just one crushed soda can, and that's just one newspaper, and that's just one one fast food bag, and that all adds up to a collage of your decadent jaded philosophy." You try to reply that you're really not that jaded, but the Captain has already made up his mind. He continues, "You're probably so jaded you don't think this is happening right now. You're so jaded I could just start fucking you in the ass and if I asked you tomorrow you would deny that it happened. You're gonna pick it up! I BET YOU PISS IN THE OCEAN, TOO." Then he forced the man who littered to bend over the man and sodomized him while screaming pick it up! Pick it up! Until police arrived on the scene.

Once captured and locked up in the mental ward, his health quickly deteriorated until one day they went to feed him and all that was left was peat and moss. Some say it was because of his vegan diet, but most say it was because his spirit left his body, because they swear they saw him calling someone out on the street. But nobody admits to an encounter... with Captain Call-out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Man Who Couldn't Hold a Plastic Cup of Water

After years of spinning like a board game accessory, trying to point the finger at the root of all my mediocrity, the plastic has warped so much that no matter where the momentum ceased I would be indicating myself. The more I thought of this, the more I believed in fate. Perhaps that was another last ditch effort to squeeze my way out of being accountable. These are the thoughts I have on the toilet every morning as I try to read and as Elaine, my girlfriend, does what she can. She needs to use the bathroom, but I get a little joy out of making her find things to do while she waits. This is my prize for winning an argument: I get to use the bathroom first because I need to be into work earlier. I later realized that she let me win that argument as part of a strategy, as she started coming home drunk at 3:15 in the AM after being out with friends... she would say, "Well I don't go to work until later than you..." Yeah, an hour later. So I started reading books I normally wouldn't read one or two chapters per day while she waits outside of the bathroom. She runs around doing random chores; she wants to make it seem as though it made no difference that the bathroom was unavailable for 20, 30, 45 minutes. After 45 minutes she knocks on the door and asks if I'm ok, as though she really thinks something is wrong. That is where it goes too far and I'd rather not think about it. I'd rather avoid letting her further taint that sweet tone she uses, which I sometimes feel is one of the few things we have left going for us.

I careen into the office with my breakfast and lunch leaking into my bag and burrowing into my chest. Everyone moves as though they intend to provide assistance but then they look at each other and ask if I "got everything"... the scene is a sociologist's wet dream. Money is tight so I pack all of my meals. I snatch the last plastic cup and fill it to the brim at the water cooler and take the scenic route to my office. Say hi to Wendall, Steve and Jessica... I look ahead and I am on a collision course with Ravi the Stoner. He gives off a chill vibe from every orifice and appendage, he is approachable and forcefully mysterious, and he does every thing short of offer roll a bone in the parking lot to make sure everyone knows that he blazes in his spare time and potentially before coming to work, which he seems to think makes him edgy. I don't mind talking to him, as long as someone distracts him so I can make a getaway. Then, as I pass Albrecht's office, a stack of manila envelopes reaches it's threshold and lands on my head from a filing shelf. I try to deflect them as a reflex, and my water, only slightly depleted, makes heavy impact with Ravi the Stoner. Ravi the Stoner holds both arms out, looks down and then at me and says "Not cool." He looks as stern as he possibly can, shakes his head... then smiles, as though any tension had mounted that he was going to suddenly seem bothered by something, as though he was capable of disgust. "It's all good bro, I'd rather be a forest ranger too", then he laughed with his tongue out and charges down the hall like he's dribbling a basketball. Launched from my morning haze, the rest of the day passes quickly.

I'm not stupid. I know that I should be suspicious when Elaine comes home an hour or more after all the bars have closed. I've met her friends and hung out with the group. If there wasn't loud music and they all had to actually talk to each other, their outings wouldn't last more than 15 minutes. The bars close around midnight on weekdays, I highly doubt that they are hanging out at a diner or one of their houses laughing over herbal tea, regaling each other with stories about old times hours after closing time. I'm sure they aren't sitting in whoever is designated drunk driver that night's car listening to NPR, bonding over intellectual conversation. However, I have no other evidence and I can't go after her with "Your friends all secretly hate each other too much to hang out anywhere but the bar, where it isn't as obvious that most of them are silently judging each other. You are definitely at some personal trainer's house getting stuffed." I just don't know what else she could be doing. I do know that when she hangs out with her friends, she will sometimes come home and start crying and wrap herself around me, saying how I'm the only stable thing in her life and that I'm the only one who cares, and that some day we will start a family and she doesn't know where she would be without me in her life. I have decided that it is times like these when she is at her most sincere. We would make love to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion and I forget my suspicions.

I sit at my computer with my head in my hand, face too close to the monitor, in a contemplative trance. At least she has a support group. I recently realized that all of my friends moved on to bigger and better things or smaller and worse things. I guess I don't blame them, I can't pay for ski trips and European getaways and I don't compare favorably to a bottle of bottom shelf vodka and prescription pain killers crushed into some baby food, so we all drifted apart. After a depressing phase of trying to hold everyone together, we all just let go and haven't looked back.

The key benefit to this remote civil service job is that I have a set range of responsibilities and I am not even allowed to do anything outside of that range of work. I am a particular link on a chain, it takes years to get to this point and I see no reason other than boredom to leave it. I take a stroll to the bathroom, and I look at my coworkers. The only unmarried one is Ravi the Stoner, and while he is jonesing to hang out, I really don't want to deal with all the facade. I don't want to be that guy who talks about when he used to get high in college, and I don't want to get high. I try to re-evaluate that last statement as I fill a plastic cup of water. On my way back to my office, Jansky pulls out of his cube and his chair collides with my hip, causing no damage except that I spilled my water again. Ravi the Stoner sees from across the sea of cubicles, stuffs his face into his forearm and blurts out an obnoxious and guttural "HA!" and does a socially acceptable version of a pirouette to somewhere out of my field of vision. I pick up and dispose of the cup and get a new one. As soon as I turn away from the water cooler, Jessica brushes against me without looking up from her iPhone, causing me to drop the cup and spill on myself. Ok, that's weird. Of course Ravi the Stoner sees this incident as well and decides to make a game out of it. I pour another cup and walk. Everybody watches me as I walk towards my office... just as the crowd starts to lose interest and disburse, a section of the ceiling falls and knocks the water out of my hand. Everybody who was still watching stare in disbelief. After a moment to collect my thoughts, I run to get another cup. That cup is capsized when the break room door wedge slips. The next cup is claimed when I trip over a lump under the carpet. The following cup endured a fly in my eye and two abruptly opened doors, only to slip from my hand when my funny bone was tapped as I leaned against the wall to escape other possible collisions.

I wasn't very interested at first, but when I kept failing to hold onto cups of water, I became very amused. Through trial and error I discovered that I couldn't finish any with plastic cup filled to the top with water, regardless of location. Cups made of glass and any other material remained unaffected, as did plastic and any drink other than water. I was even able to quickly drink a half a cup of water before anything would happen, but not a full one. I showed this to Elaine rather than try to explain it to her, and she took a great interest in it. I was surprised because this seems like one of those things she would think is really stupid and leave me by myself to enjoy it. I felt very close to her because of this shared interest. After she saw the full extent of the condition, she said she knew someone at Gallatin University who may also be interested. It was one of her friends, she worked in the front office and referred me to one of the scientists at their lab, which was the nearest lab where I could find ideal conditions for experiments to see the true depth of my problem.

Every Wednesday I would leave work early to spend several hours at the lab, as well as some weekend hours. With each session, they would remove the object that caused the previous cup to fall. It was truly phenomenal; papers would blow into my face from afar, lightbulbs would explode, glass would break. One day, when all variables were removed and it seemed that I would be able to finish walking across the room and drink the water, I had a blackout. I had never had anything like that happen before, it was alarming. Elaine encouraged me to continue, she was concerned that if I didn't beat this problem that it would haunt me forever. Her encouragement gave me the strength to continue. I eased back into the experiments, with a few tests taking place in busier rooms until I felt that I could go back into the empty room. This time, there was nothing breakable, the light was from an outside source, and I was assessed to be in perfect health. I filled the cup, entered the room, and closed the new wooden door. I walked around the room, sipping on the water. It took me a full 45 minutes, but I finished the cup of water!

I drove home right away to deliver the good news to Elaine! She was going to be so proud. I burst into our apartment only to find her bent over the couch, loosely connected to a chiseled figure, thrusting with a blank expression on his face. I changed gears and went to defend the second most tarnished honor in the room, but he temporarily incapacitated me with a move he probably learned when he taught Tae Bo back in 2002. I thought I was only down for a second, but it was enough time for him to dress himself and depart. I was completely dissolved, with that horrible image burnt into my head... I ran into the bathroom to throw up. I noticed unfamiliar condom wrappers beneath some debris in the waste basket. How sloppy. As I gathered my thoughts with priority like scrambling for pinata droppings; I realized how easily this was done and that I have nobody to blame but myself.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why I Used to Like Baseball

Here is a dream that I almost had when living in Phoenix. I was walking on a Saturday through the shiny downtown area trying to think of a way to wax poetic about the heat. Do my sweat drops turn into seeds of social change? Do my shoes begin to melt and leave tracks so that people in their cars will follow in my footsteps and walk instead? I was trying not to judge the family eating brunch at Hooters(1) when suddenly everybody's peculiar weekend routines were aggressively interfered with. With a painfully sharp cross of light, a hovering spacecraft appeared over Chase Field. Since real life imitates movies and my dreams imitate real life, communication was established very quickly. They had a bone to pick with us, and the preliminary negotiations were broadcast over every TV in the world, and probably translated into every language, though my dream didn't have the mental budget to show a bunch of ethnic people in cities hovering around shop windows to look at the TV's. Honestly I've never seen TVs in urban shop windows; the real-world practice of this probably ceased when shop owners noticed the correlation between piles of TV sets in the window and break-ins. Anyhow! Their demands were simple. They said, "We are tired of the god damned Yankees. Either establish a salary cap in baseball or we will vaporize your entire planet(2)." Then they proved their capabilities by quickly vaporizing the last three seasons of Friends. Everybody was grateful, but also in a panic because they were actually going into arbitration about the issue.

Acting commissioner Bud Selig assured the public that there was nothing to worry about, that the negotiations were really just a formality, and that they intend to appease the aliens but they had to at least put up a fight because if they caved too easily the aliens might feel like they could just hold the earth hostage and make demands whenever they needed something. The highlights of the proceedings were broadcast, the main outcome was that the aliens traded two dozen members of their safety squad for last year's American League All-star team. This of course meant that the negotiations would continue, but then the aliens reminded us that they still have the Ultramagnet and could vaporize us at anytime with no harm whatsoever to their race and surprisingly little remorse.

The players who were traded to the aliens used their influence to buy some time while the aliens who were traded to the MLB described to their new teammates what "vaporize" means and how quick "instantaneously" is. The players decided that they would settle for the cap as long as they aren't making less than the "Dancing With the Stars" people. The aliens didn't want to accept, but with some persuasion came to a compromise. The deal was that the players would have no salary cap, but they would only be allowed to continue playing in biospheres on the aliens' home planet, which will take three Earth years to construct. At the conclusion of the three years, all MLB coaches and players will be safely transported to this new planet, while Earth and it's remaining inhabitants will be vaporized.

According to a recent candid Sunday afternoon interview with all-star first basement Tucker "Big Tuck" Tuckleton, he thinks that the fans will eventually come around to forgiving them in the afterlife. "We figure that since there is no time in the afterlife, their eventual forgiveness will be like instantaneous forgiveness for Major League Baseball players, who will be the only people left alive and experiencing time. For now I'm just going to keep doing what I always do. It's business as usual." The interview is conducted in his backyard while his 8-year-old son practices with their pitching machine. When asked what he thinks of his son's future, Big Tuck said, "Well I haven't told Little Tuck that he will be vaporized if he isn't a professional baseball player by the time he is 11, but I try to encourage him as much as I can. It's a fine balance, I don't want to pressure him but I also don't want to give him any false hope and set him up for disappointment."

(1) When I was a kid, I knew that Hooters was basically a tame strip club. I never understood why in their commercials they suggested you have your birthday party there. This was because I didn't think anybody past the age of 18 still had "birthday parties".

(2) it would put a limit on the total salary of a baseball team. In other words, rich teams like the Yankees couldn't just keep buying all the best players and thus always being one of the best teams. There's a complicated history to this, you should google it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

SB1070, or, How to Annoy Tan People

New Subject

You stop to ask two police officers where the nearest large chain stationary outlet is... they ask you what in particular you you are looking for, but before you have the chance to give much detail, one of them starts to ask you for your paperwork. Anticipating this, you reach for your neatly organized binder, but then! The other officer says to the first officer, "Well now hold on, Chattle... didn't the training video say we can't ask them that unless we have something other than their skin colour and accent to go by?" You say, "It's cool guys, I have a student visa. I have my papers right he-" "Hold it!" Chattle sounds panicked. "If we check your paperwork, we open ourselves up to just as much liability as if we don't check it." He is quickly pulled aside by the other officer, "Don't tell her that! She could ask us for our badge numbers and then we'll end up just like Bladdsbury!"

You can't hear them, but you are in a hurry, which often gives people access to their better intuition... you call out towards them, "I'm not going to ask for your badge numbers or anything, I just need to get going." The other officer sounds less panicked, "If you just stay on that corner and remain silent, it'll save us all some time, if you know what I mean." Officer Chattle says, "Let's just look at her papers and let her go. She's in a hurry, she's not gonna ask for our information." "Now Chattle, you know well as I do that this won't just be a one-time exception... We will run into this many times in the future and I think that with each person we check, we should maintain reasoning tight enough to present to a grand jury." Chattle allows a pause, then takes his turn, "Alright Lt. G... how about we ask for her name so we can look her up without seeing her papers." Lt. G is quick to correct, "Nah, that won't do. If we do that then it'll show that we looked at her info, and if it turns out that she doesn't have her paperwork and she sells drugs and gets caught, we'll be responsible for not checking her documents."

A few other officers stroll by, every bit as menacing as they are casual in demeanor. You can hear them using their power voices: "Have you asked for her paperwork yet?" Officer Chattle explains the situation to Lt. Funbar and Officer Manspowitz. Lt. Funbar listens to the story without blinking. He is the master of the upgrade. Most people start out with citations for "Suspicion of failure to maintain seatbelt" but end up pleading guilty to "aggravated neglect of turn signal" or "advanced reckless lane change" based solely on Funbar's techniques. "Did you guys watch both SB1070 tapes? You obviously didn't, because you haven't given the good people of Arizona who support this law the amount of suspicion they deserve." Lt. G is quick to defend their already considerable effort, "We can't just go by skin color and accent, what else do you see?" Funbar reaches into his pocket and pulls out a receipt: "Hey guys, I have some mail for you. Oh look, it's the Letter of the Law. It reads, 'Dear Lt. G and Officer Chattle: I don't see you back there, are you still following me? I can't tell.'" Officer Manspowitz laughs and misses his mouth with the straw to his big gulp. Funbar continues in lecture mode, "There are other questions you can ask that can lead to suspicion. Follow me. As soon as she can't answer a question, you better fucking ask for her fucking papers."

All four approach you, and Funbar, the biggest oldest one asks how you're doing, but before you can answer, he asks how long you've been in the country. Without hesitation you say "I've been a student on and off since Spring 2000." Funbar has his arms folded and asks, "Do you remember who was president then?" You answer, and he comes right back with, "Can you name a movie that came out that year?" You reply with several, then he interrupts you with great intention: "Popular rock band Matchbox Twenty had a good album come out that year, but I can't seem to recall the name... can you-" before he can finish, you say, "Mad Season, with the hit single 'If You're Gone'." Without missing a beat, he's right back with: "They went on tour with Collective Soul that year, you wouldn't happen to remember-" "The album was called Blender, with the hit 'Why Pt. 2' which came out in October, but they did not tour with Matchbox Twenty." You even caught the trick. "But what did Eve6 do that year?" Scratching the corner of your eye with your binder, which contains your documentation, you say, "Horrorscope with the hit 'Here's to the Night'." "Ok, Better than Era-" "Alright!" Lt. G bursts in, "I am about ready to let this person go." Funbar pulls him aside and through a red tense crinkled lips unleashes his muffled fury, "This girl has obviously prepared for just this sort of situation. Just because we are both Liutennants obviously doesn't mean we're cut from the same cloth. She's 5 right answers away from being suspiciously too prepared for interrogation." The questions continue, and you unknowingly walk into Funbar's trap, and like any good student of the American Legal system, you end up annoyed, confused, but with a few feel-good tunes stuck in your head.