New Order, Newer Order, Newest Order

imagesI used to hide my New Order CDs in the closet so friends wouldn’t see them; it was middle school, 1995, and if you didn’t listen to hip hop, punk rock, or the radio, you were a fucking loser. Fitting in was obviously the most important thing ever at that age, but we all needed secrets, whether sexual orientation, murder fantasies, or pop music with profoundly poor lyrics.

Eighteen years later, as I peddled my bike down Damen after work to go see Peter Hook and the Light, I couldn’t help but feel a little smug. I was going to a sold-out concert featuring the bass player of Joy Division and New Order, after all those years of hiding the CDs, after everyone realized that the Offspring and House of Pain sucked. I was right all along.

When I arrived at what I thought was the entrance of the Double Door, I saw the backs of the band through a giant window as they played “Ceremony,” the simultaneous funeral and birth of Joy Division and New Order, respectively. It sort of made sense that their backs were to me, as well as the other guys trying to ascertain the entrance’s whereabouts; the members of New Order have always been notorious assholes – especially Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.

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Watch Derek

imagesBusy week=quick post. If any of you have the Netflix streaming service, I implore you to watch the new Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras, etc.) comedy-drama Derek, which went live last month. Ricky Gervais plays Derek, a hard-working caretaker at a struggling British nursing home, along with his “best mates” Dougie and Kev, the former being the janitor, the latter not actually an employee, but a deadbeat who just hangs around the home drinking beer and courting the younger patients. Then there’s Hanna, Derek’s manager and possible, but surely destined-to-fail love interest. The most fascinating part about the show is Derek himself, though. On the surface, he seems disabled, but he’s not – Ricky Gervais himself says so. Derek is simply kind. Exceedingly kind. Too kind for his mates. It’s probably the most unconventional show I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched three of the seven episodes (it’s British TV – quality over quantity) and I’ve cried three times. It’s one of the saddest shows I’ve ever watched. But it’s a good sad, a detoxing kind of sad. And it’s funny as hell. I’m still processing the effect it’s had on me, though. So go watch it.

500 Words: Bodies in Wicker Park

wicker-park_s345x230I was biking fast down Damen last Saturday night when I heard a siren. I turned and saw an ambulance behind me. The siren seemed louder than usual, perhaps to get the crowds on Damen and North to scram so the EMT guys could do their job. I had a party to go to, so I kept going. I started to smell something rotten, or maybe fecal, or both. I thought nothing of it; big cities are full of terrible smells as scattered as Midwestern thunderstorms. I’ve gotten used to them. The smell grew worse, but it didn’t matter – I just wanted to clear Wicker Park and the congestion and get to my friend’s event.

Wicker Park is such a noisy spectacle, especially on weekends. Guys mounted on unicycles juggling flaming stuff, lines like tentacles leading out of every bar and restaurant and venue, cabs honking and honking and honking at wasted college kids who are waving them down or maybe waving at their buddies across the street and blocking traffic which causes the cabs to honk and honk and honk some more. But this is every night I’ve ever spent in Wicker Park. It’s all just noise to me. I was taught at a young age that to assimilate in big busy cities, you stare straight ahead, look like you’ve lived there several lifetimes, and look like nothing happening around you is anything new. But I’m a writer – I have to take notes.

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The Apostropocalypse

The 10th annual National Punctuation Day was Tuesday, a day when SNOOTs all over the planet are encouraged to celebrate by finding and circling punctuation errors in their local papers, publicly shaming trolls, and basically judging those who are too busy…I dunno…doing stuff like this, to know that a semicolon separates two independent clauses. It wasn’t all sunshine and exclamation points, though. (That’s my only pun in this post – get over it.) An article I read in Time reminded us that the days of the apostrophe are nigh.

I like to think of myself as a soft prescriptivist. “Will you give Steven and I a ride to the airport?” No, absolutely not. “Will you watch the dog for a half hour? I’m gonna go lay out.” Ugh…yeah, fine, as long as you’re sunbathing, and not lying down for any other reason…stupid idiosyncratic constructs. I mean, language changes; thou canst deny that. But when I hear plans to flick the apostrophe into the abyss, it honestly scares me. So why am I scared about its potential demise? One reason lies in the preceding sentence.

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On Being too Busy Judging People who Don’t Watch TV to Actually Watch TV

One day in college, 2005, while stalking one of my crushes on MySpace, I checked out Kory, her little brother’s page, her little brother who had gone from being a conservative, proverbial spokesperson for American Eagle to an all-black-clad, butt-flap-wearing, dumpster-diving anarchist in like three days. His favorite bands were Crass, Dead Prez, and Flux of Pink Indians; he was getting arrested at a protest of some sort in his profile picture; his “About Me” section read, “RED AND BLACK RESISTENCE.” What I remember the most, though, was under the “Television” section, he had written, “Smash it. Read a fucking book.”

Because I’m abysmally narcissistic, I took Kory’s comment personally. I began to look at other friends’ pages, specifically their “Television” section. While a few friends listed shows they watched, the majority was pejorative: “Fuck tv”, “makes you a zombie”, “television sucks”, “aw hell no”, “no”, “It’s in the garage”, and so on. One of my friends had, in lieu of text, a gif of a monkey peeing in his own mouth. Another had, basically, an English 101 paper written about the government, mind control, conspiracy theory, and how we need to “wake up, be brave, and turn it off.” Apparently there was a revolution happening, some sort of intellectual renaissance – but I wasn’t a part of it.

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On Common Sense

I have no common sense. It’s been a year since I graduated, and it’s taken me a year, working in a busy kitchen, to learn that I have no common sense. I am beginning to understand what common sense is, however, and I seem to have leased its concept long enough to work in the busy kitchen that reminds me every day that I have no common sense.

Here’s what I’ve figured out so far: common sense means you have to make things happen quickly and efficiently. There always needs to be something cooking. You have to be a machine. You have to produce. If you aren’t producing quickly and efficiently enough, you are scolded, told to work harder, and you work harder, no questions asked.

I have friends, who have killed other human beings in the Middle East, tell me that they would rather get deployed again than work in a kitchen.

You are a piece of shit. Nobody you work with gives a fuck about the Samuel Beckett quote you want to use right now, no matter how applicable it may be, because it’s not producing anything tangible. It’s not slathering 1000 Island dressing on rye bread, nor is it washing the plates stacked up in the heavy bus tub sitting on the floor next to the pot full of soup you burned earlier, you piece of shit.

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Just a quick plea from the quicksand

Hey – it’s been awhile. My MFA-related job as a line cook has taken over my life, my dreams (literal and figurative), and my time to read and write as much as I want and need to. I did just read (before I received a text, asking if I wanted to come in to work early to help subdue today’s behemoth prep list) a great essay, Darwin and the Art of the Three Star Review over at Vouched. I personally tend to read more music reviews than book reviews – often times more than I actually listen to the music, but anybody with a fetish for reading book reviews, often times more often than the book under review, ought to check this essay out. Perhaps I’m a little biased, as it’s written by my friend Kyle Winkler and published on my other friend Christopher Newgent’s website, but it’s a great look at the phenomenon of judgement over a lifestyle that goes unrewarded more often than not. That’s all. I miss you guys. Time to go make gumbo, mainline corn pasta salad into the Appalachian veins of morbidly-obese yuppies, and slice off an opposable thumb.

I usually hate Tumblr pages and images of text message conversations, but…

Texts from Bennett is amazing. It’s been viral for a day or two, which, in Internet time, is like a year or five, but if you haven’t seen the site, it’s a series of text conversations between the author of the page and his 17 year-old cousin Bennett, who is essentially a wannabe thug who is so clueless, offensive, and a good example of why conflict and unhappiness exists, that he’s almost endearing and sort of a genius. The dichotomy between the seemingly knuckle-dragging Bennett and his obviously-educated cousin works so well because, in spite of how embarrassed they appear to be, knowing each other, you can tell they respect one another. If you haven’t laughed your ass off yet today, click the link at the top of the post. You’re welcome.

Flies, Mortality, Dorking Out, Writing, etc.

The other afternoon in Skyrim, as my housecarl Lydia and I delivered our mortal, respective steel-sword jabs and firebolts to the reanimated corpse of King Olaf One-Eye in his tomb, a fat fly, in real life, flew into my temple.

It’s late November. Although I do keep my south window open to air out the smoke from the cigarettes I smoke in my nonsmoking apartment unit, there’s otherwise no reason for flys’ presence in my apartment. Perhaps it’s the rotting ramen scum splattered on the dirty dishes in my sink that they’re attracted to. Yesterday, two small flies buzzed around my apartment. I gradually weakened them with bursts of Febreze – weakening the unclean with sterility, like casting healing spells on the undead. They either flew out my window or died somewhere inside, their corpses missing or stepped on, rubbed into my apartment’s thick, brown carpeting. Maybe the fat fly that 9/11ed into side of my head was their mother, and she was furious. Or maybe it was the reanimated corpse of my good friend Eric, who ODed on New Year’s Eve, 2004, and he was telling me something. Telling me that it’s not okay to have logged 35 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim after having owned it for a mere week.

I paused the game and stood up and reached for Edward P. Jones’ story collection, Lost in the City, but immediately felt guilty about using books to kill a fly, and left it on my bookshelf.  I chose, instead, a Spokane Values coupon brochure, settling on the practical newspaper-or-expendable-print-material-as-fly-bludgeon cliché. I chased the fly around my apartment, wearing my Oxford sweatpants, and the button-up shirt I’d worn the night before in an effort to “dress up” for a friend’s birthday, which she didn’t show up to, the shirt I slept in. The fly was sluggish and easy to whap, but without a surface, my swipes did very little, except cast the fly farther from my reach. When the fly buzzed over to my bookshelf and settled on In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien, I remembered the interview some fellow Barkers and I conducted last spring, the interview I’m supposed to be shaping, the interview I was so excited about having landed, the interview my Vietnam war historian father was so proud about my having landed. I remembered that I used to be in school, that I used to work hard, or at least was under the impression that I was working hard, when really my two years of grad school were little more than me hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock of life. I took a swipe and the coupon brochure slapped Alice Munro, Henry James, John McPhee, and Tim O’Brien, but it barely touched the fly, who buzzed away, and off into a corner.

What the hell am I doing with my life, I thought. I then pulled out my laptop and started writing.

On being a sniveling dweeb

Just a quickie today – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, “…one of the most fully-realized, easily enjoyable, and utterly engrossing role-playing games ever made,” has just released. My freezer is stocked with microwavable garbage; I’ve moved my television into a different corner of my living room so the afternoon sun that shines through my south window doesn’t cast a distracting glare on it; I’ve taken several days off work; I’ve turned off my phone so my boss can’t call me into work; I’ve been sleeping slumped forward in an uncomfortable chair to ascertain the homo-erectic posture needed when I’m leaning forward and casting entanglement spells on the dragon I’m about to behead; I’ve accepted the fact that posting this grotesque litany has decreased my chances of getting laid by 800%; I await a surfeit of nerdgasms. Don’t even get me started on the new Zelda game releasing in a few weeks. Yup – my waltz with the Seven Deadly Sins has gotten frisky and taken me to a VIP room with Sloth and Gluttony, and I couldn’t be more excited. St. John Clarke may have once said, “Growing old consists, abundantly, in growing young,” but since I’m hardly old enough to subscribe to such a sentiment, I’ll still find time, between filling kobolds with flaming arrows fired from my +5 bow and pestle-banging alkanet flowers and mort flesh into my mortar, to make it to Voice Over.

In the meantime, here’s a video by Gary Wilson, one of my fellow music snoot Luis’s recent discoveries; expect a blog post about him soon.

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