Friday, January 28, 2005

Pat Neal Lives in California

Two things I should probably stop doing for my own good: 1) reading so many reviews of things. 2) Thinking about my life in the past tense as if I were fifty years old.

Now, the reviews thing I've been harping on for years, but I can't force myself to stop. More than one person has made fun me over the years for letting Entertainment Weekly influence my taste in movies, and I must say that once I read a well-written piece on a film and I can't argue with its logic, I find myself agreeing with it to some extent, even if the judgement goes against my instincts. I think I'm pretty suspectible to cogent prose, in other words. If you're a good enough writer, you can convince me that Clint Eastwood is gay. And then I find myself conversing thusly: "well, this guy at Slate thinks Clint Eastwood is gay... I can't really remember his arguments, but they were pretty convincing." (I often can't remember the pithy parts of people's arguments, perhaps because I read a lot of articles/reviews, partly on account of the heart murmur).

Second, and more seriously, reading reviews--especially music reviews and double especially Pitchfork's music reviews--depress me because I always come out feeling like the writing is much better than mine, they can describe music much better than I ever could (which is probably true), and that too much in my life I just think of as ethereal and impossible to put into words (like music). I don't feel like going the review thing more now, but I've been telling myself and others what I just wrote for years now--the problem is that I like to keep up with the world and I also like to appear sophisticated and above the riffraff of the hoi poloi. I also like to have an opinion that is validated by someone else. I also like to separate the wheat from the chaff without actually having to sift through the latter like so much chaff. What the fuck is chaff, anyway? What's the deal with chaff?

So, I got a part-time internship at a literary agency in the big, scary city. If you saw a guy in an ape suit sprinting around 26th and Broadway last Friday at around 4:30, and then sprinting and looking really confused and angry around 53rd and 5th Monday at around 2:15, that was me being late for interviews (the latter "informational"). But I got the internship because I uttered this killer line as I walked in the door, sweaty and panting uncontrollably: "I just flew in from Munich, and boy are my arms tired." Granted, it's a line from a years-old Becks commercial that I often repeat, and it made no sense in the context of the interview and I didn't actually say it, but everyone there ate it up and hoisted me up on a chair, Bar Mitzvah-style, and then proclaimed me Leader For Life. Fin. In a future entry, topic number two: what I'll be thinking as I'm smoking a cigar, taking a walk around some eerily quiet suburban neighborhood on August 15th, 2032.

Federer lost. Long live Federer!

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Kharma Ran Over My Rubix Cube

Ok, so I had just urinated but hadn't yet flushed the toilet, when this facewash cream I use fell into the toilet. This wouldn't have happened in comfortable old suburbia, but I'm staying at a friend's place here in Brooklyn, and all my toiletries are perched precariously on a shelf above the porcelain throne. I had to fish this thing out, then wrap it up in toilet paper and throw it away. Why am I telling you this? Because it makes me feel less alone in this topsy-turvy universe. Sooner or later, this blog will be solely devoted to the description of masturbation-related antics and we can all revel in the comedy of my private life.

I wonder what Ulysses S. Grant would think if he knew that in 2005 you could write about facewash falling into a toilet on a newfangled invention called the internets. He'd probably think that civilization had come a long way since his oldfangled days.

Regarding Sunday's football, as Josh Glickman said, I think I now know what it feels like to be a Yankees fan. It's definitely a lot of fun, but the old, pre-title flaming desire just can't be replicated. (Note: I wrote something here earlier which the first comment is in reference to, and which I've decided to reword (sorry, anonymous))... what I meant was that being a Patriots fan, you're expecting success every time out. It's like going to a bar and expecting to go home with whoever you want--perhaps the sixtieth time you did it it wouldn't be as cool as the first). It's important to savor these moments, though, because I may never see another team like this. Like everything else, during the lean times it's hard to imagine success, and during the fat times (right now), it's impossible to imagine the Patriots being average again. But they will be, someday. Just as I will fall from the dizzying heights of success, cut out the people closest to me, and withdraw into my drug addiction until it almost kills me. Then I'll discover Jesus.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Trader Joe's Chocolate Truffles Are Delicious

I drove to New York the other night because I was sick of the jostling claustrophobia of the Chinatown bus, and because I love to drive. Now my car is being covered with layer upon layer of snow, and Matt Drudge has graced his website with an unusual blue headline to illustrate the gravity of the situation. (UP TO 21 INCHES, 50 MPH WINDS). I'll have to dig my car out of this massive God-orgasm on Monday, but I'm still glad I brought it, even though its headlights dim when you cut the wheel all the way to either side, it squeals at seemingly random times, it runs like a retarded '47 Studebaker, and so on and so forth. I treated it like shit for years, so it's not a big surprise.

Anyway, I'm glad I brought it because I'm caught up in the romantic American ideal of the road. It had been months since I had taken a trip longer than a couple of hours--after last year's run of trip after trip and my car racking up miles like never before, I've been using it like a granny--sparingly, just to go to church and the supermarket, as some cliche that might not really be a cliche could go.

On Thursday, I was having a pretty shitty day--I woke up with notions of packing up everything for the big move so I wouldn't have to do all the work when I got back, but I ended up lazing around in signature fashion while my mom grew more anxious about my departure with every passing minute. She began to yell, I began to yell, punches were thrown, the whole megillah. I finally got in my hoopty at around six in the o'clock, and let me tell you something: once you get on that open road (the Mass. Pike, I-84, I-91, and I-95 in this case), your troubles don't exactly vanish, but, well, if you're playing the right music, you feel like you might be a character in the closing scene of one of the 800 movies that end with a character driving away. I can see why it's so common, because it's a very attractive option.

That movie sequence thing feels good, because it implies promise and change, transformation. There's something awesome and mystical about being able to pick up and leave--also some notion that things will be different and better wherever you end up. The other night, I knew my anxieties and such would dissipate somewhat as soon as I got on the road, and sure enough, they did. Driving also requires a sort of robotlike focus on what's in front of you, which can be pretty damn refreshing in today's frenzied world full of beer commercials and lascivious underwear models.

Also, I enjoy being alone a lot of the time, and driving makes you feel like you're in your own little moving bubble, immune to all the little criticisms that bother me when I'm talking to people. (Like, nobody can tell me that there's an easier way to defog my windshield. If I'm doing it the wrong way, so be it. I'm not the wiser, but I'll never know, either. Ignorance is bliss. This is difficult to explain).

Also, I ate dinner at Rein's Deli (old standby for everyone who drives between Boston and New York), and there's something great about walking into a restaurant by yourself, scanning everyone, and imagining that people are giving you the once-over, trying to figure out who you are and what you're doing there. Being alone lets you focus on all kinds of things that you wouldn't pay attention if your friends or family were around. Of course, it's lonely to have something funny happen and have nobody to share it with. But it also makes you feel like a grizzled, mysterious traveler who's seen it all, and is used to laughing with strangers. In short, it, too, makes you feel the movie thing. It's liberating, if not always exciting, to be out of your element, completely without connection to your usual world (except for that goddamn cell phone).

There's often something disappointing about the end of a drive, when you have that slightly frantic, unreal sense of dislocation that travel brings. When you arrive, you're not quite sure what do with yourself. Your whole trip has been leading up to this moment, and you usually just end up sitting on a couch and doing something boring like catching up or watching TV. There's something about it that feels like a letdown. I don't feel like trying to explain this one more. Fuck it.

That's it for now. Remember to have your pets spayed and neutered.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Absolut Post

CNN really must have some rigorous screening techniques to let this poll become an article. I think I'll blame my friend Danny, who works there. Pretty funny stuff.

Thanks to the excellent Talking Points Memo blog for bringing this to my attention. Ah, I sounded like a real blog there for a second.

One of my problems is that I too easily feel like I've accomplished something. Today I was changing addresses for magazines, phone bill, etc., and just doing that made me feel deserving of a break and a chance to watch Roger Federer's highly entertaining match with an Asian fellow by the name of Suzuki. I like saying a (blank) fellow by the name of (blank). It makes me sound old-fashioned, which is always good.

I just skidded several feet turning onto my street. It was snowing like a motherfucker, that picturesque fluffy kind. See my comments re: "godforsaken hellscape" yesterday. Good thing Brooklyn will be slightly (five to seven degrees, I estimate) warmer than this. I keep telling my brother I'll notice the difference.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Coach Carter Takes Manhattan

Has it really been five days since I've updated? Oh, these January days do fly by, don't they? When it's one degree outside, as it is right now, you lose track of time like a one-legged mule digging for fool's gold.

Folksy, nonsensical similes aside, this medium is proving difficult to manage. But I'm going to soldier on for now, because someone at the Boys and Girls Club of Compton told me that giving up is for pussies, and that someone is Samuel L. Jackson. He also told me I had to maintain a 2.3 grade point average if I wanted to continue to not give up. I told him that I had well over a 2.3, but he shouted me down and stared at me intimidatingly. I've since used his tactics whenever I'm losing an argument. The tactics usually don't work.

I think that last paragraph was funnier than most of what passes for humor at the New Yorker. But do they publish my shit? No! The fact that I've never submitted anything should not stop David Remnick from coming to my house for some sort of recruiting interview. I could set up a brothel, like in "Risky Business," and he could look over my writing and say "It's good, but it's not exactly 'The New Yorker,' is it?" (Or whatever it was that dude said). And then he could fuck any one of the hookers in my house, and then publish my writing, and then I'd be on the path to stardom. Yeah, that's the ticket!

It's very goddamn difficult, as Holden Caulfield might have said, to write without these annoying pop culture references, isn't it? If I ever do get around to writing that novel, future college students (who would surely be reading it) would need footnotes like "Samuel L. Jackson--popular African-American actor of 1990's and 2000's, most famous for role as hitman in Quentin Tarantino's classic 'Pulp Fiction.'"

And this post was supposed to be about how I'm an asshole to my mother... looks like I"ve gotten off-topic once again. This Lee-Waters gal is really giving Sharapova a run for her money. I hope Sharapova doesn't lose, because she's hot and Lee-Waters isn't. I think all blogging should just consist of unreadable stream of consciousness, or the blogger looking around their surroundings, like I am right now, and commenting on what they see (in this case, the TV).

Like I was saying, my mother and I have a close, good relationship on the whole, but a long time ago I settled into this comfort mode where I can just be a whiny bitch and criticize her all the time. I think it's got to stop, but it's not easy. Just because I've identified the problem, it isn't immediately solveable. And of course this doesn't apply to her solely at all. The limitations of this blog mean I can't elaborate further there, so I'll just say I'm a critical guy, in part because everyone I know annoys me in some way, as I was telling an old friend over lunch last week to her amusement. I'm a very, very easily annoyed person. Loud eating, mispronounced words, feigned stupidity. You name it, it annoys me. But fuck that, it doesn't give me a license to run my mouth, because I can give it but I sure as hell can't take it, even when I deserve it. See, I don't really like writing about semi-weighty personal topics like this, but it's nice to get it out there. I'm sort of giving it the short shrift in this post, but I'm giving you a general idea of at least one though process in my head.

My future landlord told me today that the elevator may not be working by move-in day, and that the gas for the stove may not be working for a month after we move in (we'll be provided with hotplates). My dad had raised very reasonable concerns about this sort of thing happening, which I raised to my future roommates, who didn't seem to care nearly as much as I did. I feel frustrated by this turn of events, and only want to be settled in New York with my new (used) file cabinet in order, the cable and internet working, and the Brian Eno song I mentioned earlier on the hi-fi. Somehow I think it might be a while before that happens.

Seriously, it's one fucking degree outside. I'm becoming increasingly impatient with cold weather in my old age. Why the fuck do people live in this godforsaken hellscape? But it its lovely in the summer and fall... in conclusion, Theodore Dreiser's uses water imagery in "Sister Carrie" just for the hell of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

How does the world work?

I hate logistics. Moving things from one place to another, setting things up once you get there, figuring out what goes where, filling out all the paperwork involved, etc. Just thinking about doing these sorts of things stresses me out and makes it difficult to focus on anything else (right now I'm thinking about how to get my stuff from here to Brooklyn in the next couple of weeks).

I look around me and see so much movement and activity. Today I was at the mall, and just walking through the department stores is (for me) kind of awe-inspiring. So much material--tons and tons of clothes, racks to put the clothes on, little items they're selling, tables for display, and all the rest of it. There's so much goddamn STUFF in the world, and thinking about where it all comes from, how it's made, and all the human ingenuity that goes into selling it can make one's head spin. There really is something to be said for living in a rustic setting, away from all of this.

Be more clear, Ben. You're not backing up your points with evidence. Well, it's hard to explain. I'm just constantly amazed at and overwhelmed by this world's complexity. If I had to guess how many people lived in America, it would be a lot more than do, I think. As a society, I don't think we're as stressed out about logistics as I am as a person. If we were, none of this shit would ever get done.

Someday I will summarize this point eloquently. Today doesn't seem to be the day.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Roger Federer

This guy is inhumanly good. I really wanted to watch a tennis match today, but nobody in this country gives a shit about tennis unless there's an American involved, and even then they'd rather watch Arena League football. Would it be too much to televise Federer Vs. Lubijic (sp?) in the Qatar Open final?

Complaining into an online void is almost as fun as watching "Boyz 'N the Hood" (I'm continuing with the "urban"-themed programming this morning).


Every town got two malls

Today, as I was sorting through some old stuff with my mom (now that I'm moving, I feel a much-needed sense of urgency to take care of some shit), I looked through my old high school records and was reminded of how awful my grades were in high school--and when I say awful I don't mean awful in the same way annoying good students mean after they take a test they're not sure they aced--"I really think I fucked up that test," they'll say, and then they get a 92. When I say that, I mean I'm expecting like a 55 or less. I also encountered numerous comments on report cards that indicated I wasn't working up to my potential, which I've been hearing since I was a wee lad. You might say it's the theme of my life so far. Even a recommendation from a good but ornery english teacher (I got a B- in the class, so you can really see I was reaching for someone to say something good) opened his letter by saying that I was in the middle of his students in terms of grades, and that "Someday everything will click in a Ben Hart paper." He proceeded to say that I was a talented writer, etc., but that I seemed to have too much fun writing (not really true) and don't spend enough time developing my point. Another thing I've been hearing for yonks and yonks.

I'm not sure why I'm writing about this, since as I've said roughly 300 times I don't want to turn this into some sad-sack "I'm angry/confused/depressed/annoyed" kind of blog. I've realized that with my problems--whether it's something that's happening to me now, or the dwelling of shitty things past, I (like the rest of the world, I guess), have a real confessional tendency. Basically, here's my criteria to feeling better. Let's say (as an example), I'm in a bank, and the teller asks me how she can help me, and I say "Um, I'd like to close my vagina" instead of "my account." Let's just say I've got vagina on the brain that day, and I slip up, as it were. I might walk around after that thinking about the incident constantly and not being able to get anything done or think about anything else seriously. But then let's say I tell my friend Joe Bloggs about the incident (Bloggs is the British version of Smith, use it at a party sometime). Bloggs doesn't laugh excessively or say "That's awful, I can't believe you did that"--if he says that, I'm fucked until I find someone better. Bloggs either says "That's funny" in a muted sort of way, or says "Oh, I told a bank teller to lick my grundle once, whatever."

Telling one person about this and not having their reaction be shock or outrage goes a long way toward mental convalescence. And I do a lot dumb shit on a daily basis, so this strategy comes in handy quite a bit.

Man, people reading this, especially people I haven't talked to in a while, might get the wrong impression. I'm just very neurotic, that's all, ok? Deal with it! I'm moving to New York in three weeks, and despite my fears that working a regular job (when, NOT IF, I get one), combined with adjusting to a city that eats pieces of shit like me for brunch will cause massive brain damage, I think it'll be a fun time. I got a lot of friends there, which is more than I can say about Falluja.

I was just watching "Bring the Pain." That Chris Rock is really going places.

Argh, writing is fucking hard.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Wilford Brimley on retards

Within a few hours of the dawn of the new year, I found myself in a kitchen arguing with a young idealist from southern Oregon. Good thing I didn't make any resolutions about being less argumentative this year. (My resolutions were to correct all of my character flaws and to stop picking my nose so much. I don't think either has much of a chance at success).

Anyway, this girl and I were arguing about (in simplified form) whether violence is ever the answer. I take a certain pride and pleasure in arguing to the right of liberals, even though I'm one myself, in most senses--of enraging their moral sensibilities so that they come to see me as some bogeyman, some representative of the massive oil-fueled machine out there that they are so certainly against. Usually the topic is something like free trade or sweatshops (I've been heavily influenced by my father, who could outargue me on most issues very quickly, and who is also certainly not a Republican--in fact, he can't vote, so he's not anything--but he sees through bullshit better than anyone I know and doesn't stick to one side, which I think is a sign of intelligence).

This time, it wasn't overtly political, but comparisons were made between punching people and bombing countries, and since I was on the punching people side, I may as well have been Paul Wolfowitz.

Ah Christ, I went out for a while, then came back, and now it's been hours since I wrote that last sentence, and now I don't feel like doing this anymore. Too bad for you, because this was going to be an amazing post.

I'm in a shitty mood.