Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Drugs are everywhere around this place.

We certainly don't benefit from having a clinic, a hospital, and a HUD complex
chock full o' loonies nearby. Somebody from that apartment building once
came in to use our phone and ended up blaming me for attempting to kill him
in collusion with his landlord. Apparently removing a hose from the back of
a clothes dryer can result in death (anyone ever hear of a dryer releasing
deadly fumes?). It was the first time I've been accused of murder, and, I
hope, the last.

We have a lot of people trying to do their own medical research in here,
some of them are nursing students and some of them are just hopelessly
clueless. Somebody kept asking for books about "Youth Asia" which I managed to correctly
interpret as "euthanasia." There's another woman we all dread who comes in
looking for pictures of [BALEETED]. She also uses "AIDS" and "STDs" interchangeably.
Thursday someone asked my co-worker about "phlebotomy in Georgia on the internet."
She was looking for a job.

There was an older woman who came in a lot this summer. I called her
"Self-Diagnosis Woman" because she always had in-depth, complicated
questions that invariably stemmed from her own health concerns. Sadly, she
didn't seem to be getting much help from the professional medical community,
which is where we came in. We have limited print materials
and a fairly extensive list of electronic resources, but she couldn't use a
computer herself, so she'd come in with a URL and ask us to show her the
site. One busy Friday morning she kept trying to engage me in conversation
in ways that didn't make any sense. For instance, she had a piece of paper
she was pointing at and saying "There's no doctors from the 'U' here. They
send them from all over the country, you know? It's funny that none of
those doctors from the 'U' are listed here. Isn't it funny?" I refused to
pretend it was funny since I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT SHE WAS TALKING
ABOUT. Later that same day, I spent a long time looking for a list of
Hematology specialists at the University hospital for her. This time the
question had something to do with her daughter, and may or may not have been
related to her earlier inexplicable comments. She looked at the list, found
the name she was looking for and said "okay, I just wanted to see if his
name was on there." I don't know why she was going to all that trouble (or,
more accurately, making me go to all that trouble) to verify that her
daughter's doctor was correctly included in an on-line directory. She then
explained to me that he'd been in Sweden for six months, as if that would
somehow clarify her intentions. It is people like Self-Diagnosis Woman who
have turned my brain to scrambled eggs.

Finally, la grande dame of my medical reference stories: Virgin Birth
Woman. She started by telling me a story about a friend of hers who had
abdominal cramps, went to the hospital, and gave birth, though she had never
known she was pregnant. This smacked of urban legend to my ears, but I did
some research to find out if there were any legitimate occurrences of this
nature. I then suffered through a long, way-too-personal autobiography of
VBW. She was concerned that she may've been pregnant despite being
"a good girl" recently. VBW's mother had dreams about fish before any member
of the family had a child, and she'd had a fish dream about VBW recently, so
VBW was worried. She told me she was seeing someone who was "a good man
except for when he's drinking," and on and on. Ultimately I gave her
"Mama's Little Baby: the black woman's guide to pregnancy, childbirth, and
baby's first year" and told her to consult a physician if she believed she
might be pregnant. Later I found out VBW recommended the book to my white,
unpregnant co-worker and told her the same long story, with some stuff about
breasts added in. It's been so long now I've forgotten all the gory
details, but I was amazed at what VBW was willing to reveal to total
strangers. People are inscrutable and boundlessly peculiar.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

I'm drinking whiskey and Coke, alone, watching Lifter Puller's reunion concert and waxing nostalgic. I had a nice offer from Space Waitress' family to have dinner but chose instead to wallow in the cluttered pit I call "home." I'm feeling pretty good, just missing the love o' my life who will be here tomorrow, lucky me. To follow: phamily phun tomorrow, work and a possible trip to "Bondage a Go-Go" Thursday, and the much-anticipated Christmas with friends gift exchange Friday night, followed by a crappy work-all-weekend extravaganza. There's a good half-dozen movies out I want to see, too, and if you're lucky I'll post lengthy, masterful reviews to titillate and arouse.

Favorite Christmas moment, 2002: looking for toy dinosaurs in Walgreens on Christmas Eve, listening to a convoluted argument between a black guy and the store manager about a failed check-cashing attempt.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

And now, the ubiquitous...


damien jurado and gathered in song - i break chairs
I was lucky enough to score an advance promo of this album last December from a great friend. It blew me away the first time I put it in my stereo and it's held up the whole year. A surprise change from Jurado's disappointing previous album, the somnambulant "Ghost of David." Songs about loss, distance, and pain never rocked so hard.

grandpaboy - mono
For all the media coverage of new rock bands from NYC and points abroad, my favorite rock album came from our own backyard. Simple, direct, raw. The best new Rolling Stones album in 30 years.

archer prewitt - three
A sunny surprise from the esteemed Mr. Prewitt, member of the Sea and Cake and creator of the middling "Sof' Boy" comic. Not a flawless album, but a refreshingly upbeat diversion during this year of elegies.

go back snowball - calling zero
This was the winner out of the annual glut of releases from Robert Pollard & Co. Mac McCaughan (Superchunk) made all the music and sent the tapes to Bob who sang his heart out over the backing tracks. Anthemic? You betcha.

beck - sea change
A huge departure for Beck, enough so that it was the first album of his I ever bought. Except for the out-of-place disco orchestra on "Paper Tiger," this was a finely crafted record. Usually words like "professional" and "polished" send me running in the other direction, but Beck has given me a reason not to hate the mainstream record industry.

eric bachmann - short careers
There were a lot of lousy instrumental albums from artists I otherwise admire this year (e.g. Dan Littleton and Tara Jane O'Neil's "Music for a Meteor Shower") but Eric Bachmann (Crooked Finger, Archers of Loaf) has made one of the best original soundtracks I've heard in a long time. Short and sweet, encompassing a broad emotional canvass with just a few simple motifs.

low - trust
I love it when Low rocks out, and they really crank it up for "Canada." As usual, a certain number of aimless plodders ("John Prine") wreck the flow, but there are enough lilting melodies ("Point of Disgust") and power-dirges ("I Am The Lamb") to imbue this record with a spirit sorely lacking in last year's "Things We Lost In The Fire."

flaming lips - yoshimi battles the pink robots
Another far-from-perfect, would-be masterpiece, "Yoshimi" could've used some paring down and reorganizing, but the negatives are far outshined by the sensational, heart-wrecking masterpiece "Do You Realize?" -- easily the best song of the year.

spoon - kill the moonlight
Spoon's last album, "Girls Can Tell," got more play in my home this year, but after I adjusted to the stripped down, rhythmic intensity of "Kill The Moonlight" I began to appreciate it on its own terms. The trick was listening to it in a car. Like The Clinic's "Walking With Thee," there's a certain monothematic drive to the record, but Spoon succeeds in making a fun record while the Clinic sank into a sickly, dull, forgettable morass of noise and reverb.

consonant - s/t
One of many surprises this year, Mission of Burna's Clint Conley makes an angular, poppy, post-punk record that sounds straight outta 1983. Complex, interesting songs that don't forsake melody.

his name is alive - last night
Warn Defever and Lovetta Pippen finally succeed at making the record they've been struggling to for the last few years. A stunning blend of traditional R&B, rock, folk, and soul jazz.

dylan hicks - alive with pleasure
This one snuck out at the end of last year, but hardly anyone heard it and it's a shame we weren't paying more attention. When I saw Dylan live in his new blue-eyed soul routine, I was unimpressed, but the record turned me around. "All The Rock Star Jobs Are Taken" is a near-classic, with "City Lights" following close behind. "I Wanna Be Black Sometimes" is one of the few recent pop songs to address race relations and succeed (sorry, Ben Folds).

sigur ros - ( )
Except for an off-kilter missing beat on track 2, Sigur Ros created another eerie, slow-building, beautiful masterpiece.

mum - finally we are no one
The secret love child of Sigur Ros and Bjork. If you press your ear into your pillow and listen closely, you will hear Mum.

pedro the lion - control
I usually find David Bazan to be a didactic and awkward songwriter, but "Control" won me over with its consistency, cohesiveness, and intensity.

cornelius - point
Apparently "organic" doesn't translate to "critical acclaim" or "success," but Cornelius' long-awaited follow-up to "Fantasma" was just as ground-breaking, if less obvious about it. Acoustic guitars, dance beats, nature sounds and vocoders never sounded so good. It's not what you'd imagine given those ingredients.

tom waits - alice
I don't listen to this record as much as I think I should, but songs like "Alice" and "Flower's Grave" continue in the Waits tradition of perfect songcraft, while "Kommienzuspadt" leaves me wondering what he's hiding under that pork pie hat.

cornershop - handcream for a generation
While their show at the Fine Line was a huge disappointment, this was my party record of 2002 (everyone else was spinning Nelly). Not since Mozart has a children's chorus sounded so good, but I could've lived without the Rastafari action.

blackalicious - blazing arrow
This year there were a lot of hip hop albums I wanted to like (Jurassic 5, Atmosphere) and quite a few I never got to hear (The Roots, Missy Elliott, Odd Jobs), but with "Blazing Arrow" Blackalicious are on their way to topping the underground rap scene. It doesn't hurt that they sample Nilsson on the title track.

reindeer section - son of evil reindeer
A breezy, warm-fuzzy inducing pop album from this Scottish supergroup, under the supervision of Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody.

honorable mentions
v/a - minty fresh japan compilation vol. 3
mates of state - our constant concern
apples in stereo - velocity of sound
flin flon - chicoutimi
anna waronker - anna
lemon jelly - lost horizons
badly drawn boy - about a boy
16 horsepower - folklore
tulip sweet and her trail of tears - cry
margaret leng tan - john cage: the works for piano, vol. 4
pieter wispelwey - britten: three suites for violoncello solo
don lennon - downtown
v/a - apartment music

most disappointing albums of the year
owen - no good for no one now
clinic - walking with thee

stuff I'm still tryin' to get my dirty little paws on
junior senior - d-d-don't don't stop the beat
bright eyes/britt daniel - home: split ep series vol. iv

...and lords be praised for all the amazing reissues that came out this year.

good night.

In the course of my dreams last night, an emaciated white man asked me for information about Nazi symbolism and themes of nuclear annihilation in "hard rock" music. I remember being unusually disturbed by the man's question, but that might've had something to do with the black goo oozing out of his chest.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

While I was taking a much-needed break tonight two co-workers suddenly appeared in the kitchen with the Gorillaz loving teenager in tow. She looked frightened and it turned out her father, who the court determined was not fit to come within two blocks of her, was in the building. He hadn't spotted her, fortunately, but he'd tried to kidnap her in the past and she was afraid to walk home. Neither her mother nor her sister were answering their phones. I wanted to call the police but she was afraid he would retaliate by vandalizing their home, as he'd done in the past (with a shotgun). Things got complicated when she told me she hadn't seen him since she was little and couldn't identify him for certain. Fortunately we did get ahold of her mother and the man left the building (with a young boy) without incident. When I talked to the mother I showed her our security camera videotape so she could ID him, and found out he had a history of drug abuse (crank) and violent tendencies (the worst story involved two dogs).

On the one hand, this is the kind of stuff that's making me tired and cynical, and on the other I was glad I could help the poor girl. It's hard to believe that kind of TV-movie shit really happens, but it does. Unfortunately now my co-workers are blaming me because apparently this crazy junk only happens when I'm there. More specifically, it keeps happening when all the superiors are out and I'm left in charge. Is this some kind of sign? I feel like Deanna Troi in the ST:TNG episode "Disaster." Yes, I am a gigantic nerd, but I did have to look that up. It wasn't like I knew the name of the epsiode from memory, and no, I don't know the name of Captain Picard's fish.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Christmas draws nigh and I'm a busy little beaver, so here's a quick one from the musty, moth-eaten attic that is my memory:

A patron approached me and said that she wanted to find a poem. She didn't know the author's name or the title of the poem, but she knew it was by a woman who wrote greeting cards. This left me kind of helpless so I offered to show the woman our poetry section so she could browse. She looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about but followed reluctantly as I explained that I was taking her to look through our poetry books. Again, she wrinkled her forehead and told me "no, I'm looking for a poem." As I reiterated the situation for her a light slowly dawned and she said "oh, you mean poetry and poems are the same thing?"

Friday, December 13, 2002

I promised him the Alamo, but we never made it further than the vet. Fortunately he handled it pretty well. When I got out the carrier he walked right in (sucker!) and was pretty cool until we had to get in the car, then the crying commenced. He was still pissed off when we got to the vet but calmed down as soon as the new environment provided him with endless distractions. I thought his vaccinations were going to be awful and he'd bite the doctor, but the worst thing he had to endure was a little tartar scraping. He was more interested in checking out the place than anything else, and never bit anyone. I'm so proud of the little bastard.

Moo Shu could stand to lose a half-pound or so, but is otherwise in good health. The strange thing was he had a bit of a bald spot that I hadn't noticed before. The skin was fine and his fur was growing back in, but that was perplexing. Who's been cutting fur out of my cat? Huh? I will hunt down those responsible (and those who harbor them) and mete out my own cruel brand of street justice. Revenge is a dish best served with tuna and a bowl of milk.

Speaking of justice, I saw a pink-haired lady and a cop having it out in the middle of the street on our way back. I don't know what she was doing out there but they were both blocking traffic. Would've made for good Koven footage (with our own funtastic audio added).

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Nobody in public office these days would ever admit to being a segregationist. I'm sure Trent Lott believes that he's changed, I'm sure Shrub is serious when he speaks out against racism, and I hate to jump on any bandwagon, but it's very hard to believe that Lott was talking about anything other than race when he made his now-infamous statement about Strom Thurmond. His apologies seem weak, especially in light of his past behavior. Lott can say he believes segregation is immoral, but I think he's probably ignoring a very obvious truth about who he really is; there's a big gap between his words and his deeds. Paul Wellstone, in his 2001 book "Conscience of a Liberal," takes Lott to task:

It always angers me how some senators who represent states with many poor people rarely mention poverty, much less try to do anything about it. Mississippi's Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, is an example. Just think of what he could do in the positive to address poverty, so evident in Mississippi. But it is not his priority. Moreover, there are all his puzzling votes against housing, health care, and child care assistance for low- and moderate-income people. Why?

When I visited the school in Tunica, Mississippi, I got some insight about this. Some in the African-American community with whom I met told me that the majority leader had not visited and met with their kids, and that normally on his visits to Tunica he met only with the casino owners, condominium developers, and other wealthy white people. In other words, they may have technically been part of his constituency, but they certainly weren't part of his political constituency."

Nixon ran on a ticket of thinly-veiled opposition to what was seen in the south as a Democrat-run Federal Government infringement on their way of life. How much has really changed since then? Outright, hostile racism was still rampant in the early 70's, and the same brand of sexism lasted well into the 80's. The now-vilified "PC" movement did a good job of squashing most of that rhetoric, but to what end? It seems to me like the stage has been set for overt racism to make a big comeback, a la Spike Lee's Bamboozled. In my college days, white Minnesotans drove me nuts with a naive "racism is dead" attitude. Racism never died, it just got squished way down deep where no one can see it. Except for the victims who see it every day, that is.

Unfortunately, it doesn't help matters when any slight injustice against a black person is misread as racism. I get it every once in awhile: "you're comin' down on me 'cause I'm black!" No, I'm kicking you out because you've been jumping on furniture, yelling, and threatening other patrons. It's the same thing with those 200 people out there who exploit welfare, opponents jump on the opportunity to paint every welfare recepient as a lazy good-for-nothing. Just because people wrongly "play the racism card" every once in awhile doesn't mean racism isn't a real problem.

This brings us to my larger point. America was built on a dream, supposedly, which is a beautiful thing, but now we've got a nation living in constant illusion. No one wants to face the harsh reality (hence Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth"). Personal responsibility has been nearly abolished in favor of tearful public apologies and turning a blind eye. Confront just about anyone with any kind of wrong doing and they will immediately be on the defensive, to the point where people aren't willing to accept responsibility for anything. I'm sure you've seen this in action before. I see it every day in children and adults behaving like children. As much as I believe in the power of the imagination, it has been perverted into ignorance.

Lookit me, I musta got the Holy Spirit in me or sumpin'! Woo hoo! I'm evangelicisin'! Look out, world!

Our central library is closing early tonight because a "device" was found nearby and several buildings in the area are being evacuated. Since I'm dealing with a bunch of argumentative, ill-behaved kids again tonight, I can't help but feel a little jealous.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Again with the unnecessary cruelty: today some guy cursed my mother. He wandered in and gave me a sob story about how his mother died and he was trying to get back to Arizona for the funeral. "None of the churches would help" so naturally he came to the public library. He showed me the instruction manual for an air conditioner and asked me if I knew what it was. That's a new one on me, since usually panhandlers don't give you a test (unless it's the standard Jesus question). Turns out that particular unit sells for $200 and he was willing to sell it to me for only $18! What a deal! I told him I couldn't help him out and that what he was doing was illegal, which didn't sit too well. That's when he told me he hoped the same thing happened to me when my mother died, or something to that effect. Well, thanks a lot sir! 'Cause I'd just been sitting around all day hoping I could ruin some poor man's day by foiling his scam. The great thing was he invited me to come to the airport and watch him buy the ticket, in case I didn't trust him. Maybe that was a clever way of asking for a ride, but I'm astonished by his assumption that I would be willing to invest not only $18 but a good hour and a half of my time. I'm being persecuted like a claymation Michael Jackson, yo. Time to go buy more kitty litter.

Last night I enjoyed a couple of beers at the Dinkytowner and "broadened" myself with some hardcore Cinema Slop. Joel screened William Klein's rare 1969 film Mr. Freedom, a diabolical cross between The Magic Christian and Godard's Week-End. Mr. Freedom is a maniacally violent, racist, and misogynistic superhero who works for the fascistic "Freedom Inc." (spelled F-R-double-E-D, D-O-M). He takes his orders, songs and slogans from Dr. Freedom (Donald Pleasence), who appears only as a video image (shades of Videodrome). The plot, such as it is, sends Mr. Freedom to France, where his counterpart Captain Formidable has just been killed by Red Chinaman (who makes only one appearance as a proto-Krofftian inflatible monstrosity). Being the absurdist comedy film that it is, oddity, hilarity, and biting satire ensue. The film manages to predict both the end of the Vietnam War and the coming of George W. Bush. Still don't wanna see it? Picture Mr. Freedom in his red, white and blue costume: a cross between wrestling, football, and umpire gear. Now imagine him strolling through the American embassy (a brightly lit grocery store) surrounded by scantily clad blonde women bouncing and running circles around him while he rants about his fight against Communism. Jesus and Mary make an appearance, as does Serge Gainsbourg. There's a lot of gunplay, a little nudity, and ultimately, most of France is reduced to rubble. Now aren't you disappointed you missed it?

Sunday, December 08, 2002

I was up into the wee hours of the morning Christmas shopping online and engaging in top-secret homemade giftmaking. At the same time, there's been a spider hanging in the corner next to my bathroom mirror for over 24 hours. I'm pretty sure it's become unhinged and thinks it's a caterpillar. There's no other reasonable explanation, unless it died there. Is that possible? Maybe I should go poke it. Stay tuned for further exciting updates.

Friday, December 06, 2002

I feel like John C. Reilly in Magnolia (or The Anniversary Party); my tough exterior is crumbling and I just want to cry. Maybe that's not entirely true. My "tough exterior" is pretty transparent, and, to most people, entirely absent, but I'm trying to give the impression of toughness in these situations, no matter what squishiness lurks beneath.

Around 4:30PM today, my co-worker told me somebody threw something at a window in the meeting room and one of my other co-workers had gone out to investigate. "Okay," I thought, "no big deal, I'll just go out and shoo off the transgressors." When I walked outside it seemed like there were a lot of people standing around. Then, as I turned the corner, I found a car backed up into two of our benches, actually suspended there, hung up on the driver's side door and the rear bumper. No one seemed to know how the car got there, which was the disturbing part.

Two teenage girls had been sitting at one of the benches and were freaked-out and crying. They told me they'd heard a car screeching to a halt, then suddenly the rear-end of this vehicle was coming right at them. Fortunately they weren't hurt. An old woman was wandering around and it turned out the car belonged to her. I still didn't know what had happened, exactly, but everyone seemed okay so I ran back in to call the police. When I came outside again, the car was no longer hanging on the benches. Some guy had come along and managed to drive the car down off of its perch.

I questioned the woman and finally got the story straight. She parked in the bank parking lot across the street, briefly, while she went to use the mailbox on the corner. For reasons which will never be fully explained, she left the car running and her door open, and put the car in reverse. She said she thought it was in park (and she was 77 years old, if this helps explain anything). So she got out of the car and it started backing up across the street. Somebody driving by had to slam on their breaks to avoid hitting it. The vehicle made it across the street, rammed the corner of the library (leaving a big dent and some insulation sticking out of our nice, new building), smashed all the glass out of the driver's side door, then headed straight for the kids on the bench and rode up pretty high before getting stuck. All this, and the Hmong police officer who arrived did not, to my knowledge, give her any kind of ticket, which truly baffles me. I got all her vehicle and insurance info and made a few calls. Glass was scattered all over the sidewalk. La la la.

Soon it was time to close, thank God, but we had a kid afraid to leave the building because some other kids were waiting outside to beat him up. This is nothing new. We're still without security until the new year, and the last time this happened the cops didn't show. I went out and yelled at the kids to get away from the library, and they headed off down the block.

Traffic was monstrous on the way home, and I spent most of it thinking about anger and violence and our inability to control or defend children. For a group seen as being powerless it seems like they have an awful lot of power over adults. This is why I feel tired and angry about my job half the time. Maybe I just need to get out of the damn ghetto. Now I feel like Ice Cube...

No helicopter lookin for the murder
Two in the mornin' got the Fatburger
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read, "Ice Cube's a pimp"
Drunk as hell but no throwin' up
Half way home and my pager still blowin' up
Today I didn't even have to use my A.K.
I gotta say it was a good day

Maybe that's not entirely true, either.

Sometimes it all seems so futile. Thanks for listening, though.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Some crafty fellow out there has arrived at Liberry Blooze by typing "library peeping tom under desk" into Google. Amazingly, I come up on the first page. Wow! Maybe I should install a hidden camera under my desk so people can:

(1) Thrill to the sight of my corduroy knees!

(2) Relax to the poetic wonder of tiny bits of paper floating slowly to the floor, like a gentle snowfall.

(3) Wager on when the next pen will drop, leading to a rare glimpse of my face. It'll be just like "American Idol!"

(4) Ponder the futility of my empty chair as I dash off in search of Planet Africa.

Probably not, then. Please don't be disappointed. I only want to please you. All of you.

Except for the drunken morons shouting at each other in the parking lot below my window. They can go straight to Hell.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Well, not quite. But there are library robots already in the works, and this makes me mighty pleased, just like a fine bottle of LaTrappe. Works every time.

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