February 23, 2009
February 20, 2009
this morning i saw the rihanna photograph on gawker. even though i call it “the rihanna photograph,” i don’t like to call it “the” rihanna photograph because there are an awful lot of photographs of rihanna available online and an awful lot of them are not awful and the lot of them available show rihanna in ways that are not as awful as that photograph that i saw this morning on gawker. there are not only photographs of rihanna but also a lot of different representations of rihanna available in sound and image and video and text, for example the song about umbrellas and also the video about them and how they protect us from rain and sun and offer other human comforts. those are not awful and a lot of the sounds and images and videos and text available are not awful, though some are. to give that photograph of rihanna which i saw on gawker this morning the power, even just in the form of ephemeral, topical idiom, to be the defining representation of her, “the” rihanna photograph, seems an awful thing. ephemeral is a term which means phemeral on the internet, like email is a term which means mail on the internet; topical is a term which means applied to the skin. rihanna’s skin in the photograph i saw this morning and which a lot of people received or sent emails about, is awful, which is not true in a lot of the representations available of rihanna and which makes it seem an awful thing that it is the defining representation of rihanna today. yet even if it is an awful thing it is also a thing which is true which is that in idiom and in trends and in et cetera, that image is a defining representation of rihanna at least for today. et cetera is a big and vague place which is hard to define like space or the internet but still if you are looking for rihanna today in the space of the internet that is the representation of her you will get, the awful photograph and et cetera.
so this morning i saw the awful photograph of rihanna on gawker. i saw the sun when i woke up and i saw the toilet when i went to the bathroom and i saw the cup of coffee when it was given to me and i saw the photograph of rihanna when i turned on the computer. it was an awful photograph but i was glad to see it, just as i was glad to see the sun and toilet and coffee well perhaps not the toilet but it is a necessary thing. in the morning in the past, people read newspapers but now they read blogs, which are somewhat like newspapers but different. i was glad to be given the photograph by gawker which i read sometimes and which sometimes gives me things, sometimes things which are good and sometimes things which are awful. sometimes it is good and necessary to see awful things although there are complicated ethics about whether seeing awful things is a thing which is good or awful, both a thing which is good or awful for the person seeing the awful thing and whether it is a good or awful thing for the awful thing being seen, which awful thing is sometimes a person like rihanna. this has been discussed and debated by a lot of people such as tipper gore and diane arbus and frank zappa and susan sontag, several of whom are dead, which is awful. susan sontag is one of the ones who is dead and after susan sontag died, many sites posted photographs of her to go with the things they wrote about her being dead. they did not post any photographs of her being dead, which most or many people would agree to be an awful thing, but instead posted photographs of her when she was alive, before she was dead. the photographs were taken before she was dead but still exist after she died and even now they are still there. after susan sontag died, i read a lot of the profiles about susan sontag being dead which seemed like a thing to do and so i saw a lot of the photographs about susan sontag being dead, although the photographs were of her when she was alive, as i have said. i saw a lot of the photographs and in most of the photographs i did not find susan sontag particularly attractive, but in one of them i did find her so, for some reason which is vague and hard to define. the photograph in which i found susan sontag particularly attractive was posted by the new york times, although to say posted is complicated because the new york times is a newspaper which is printed on paper and not posted on the internet but i did not see the particularly attractive picture of susan sontag on paper but on the internet, where the new york times is posted instead of printed because the internet is not on paper and therefore cannot be printed. the new york times is sometimes called the paper of record. record is a verb which means “to set down or register in some permanent form” and a noun which means the thing that the verb makes, the permanent form, which is permanent even though life is not. here is the photograph:
i liked looking at that photograph of susan sontag which is a thing men do, an awful thing perhaps, according to some or a lot of people, mostly women, but a reality also. reality is sometimes awful and men are too but only sometimes but that does includes sometimes also, which may be often or occasionally. men do awful things sometimes and good things sometimes and sometimes things which are in between, which is what is called a gray area which means an area which is gray. i saved the photograph of susan sontag in a file on my computer and sometimes i would look at the photograph when i was what is called horny, which does not mean what you might think it means which is having a horn or being full of horns. horny means wanting something you don’t have at the moment in a way which is less than thinking but may also involve thinking of some sort and which may or may not be awful. when i was horny sometimes i would find the file of the photograph of susan sontag, which was sometimes difficult because i did not name the file “photograph of susan sontag,” which would have been a smart thing to do since that is what it was. and so sometimes because the file of the photograph was hard to find, when i was horny i would do what is called hunting. in the past, hunting was done with a gun but now most hunting is done with a box which you put letters in and click. guns click too but when a gun clicks that means it is empty but when the box clicks that means it is working to be full. i hunted for susan sontag sometimes when i was horny but also sometimes and maybe even often but at least occasionally when i was wistful, which means full of wist. wist is a thing which nobody knows what it is but everybody wants sometimes or often. i felt complicated about this looking and hunting and wist and horniness and somewhat awful about it, sometimes. there is website called something awful where they reposit awful things, it is a repository of awful somethings, although it did not first reposit the awful picture i saw of rihanna this morning on gawker and neither did gawker, in fact, instead that was reposited by a website called TMZ, which is often awful but not always. the website gawker is something somewhat awful sometimes but that is not the name of the site, the name is gawker, which means a person who gawks. according to books and lectures, when men look at pictures and things and women they gaze, which is a bad thing, generally, but when people, who are not necessarily but may and can be men, look at pictures on gawker, they supposedly gawk, which is another way of looking and may be worse or better. the difference between gazing and looking and watching and gawking is hard to say and has been discussed by many people but may involve length or context.
on gawker, a lot of people were being people who gawk, most were that, which is natural considering the title of the site, but also some were being people who talk, although talking is a thing you do with your mouth and they were doing it with their fingers, which can be a thing which is called sign language although that is a different thing than the thing that they were doing, which is called typing. some people might say they were doing what is called writing but writing and typing are different things a famous quote about that is by truman capote who said about jack kerouac’s on the road that it was not writing but typing. jack kerouac typed on the road on what is called a scroll which is a long piece of paper which proceeds out from itself. to read the comments typed on gawker, which are sometimes and often many and a lot, though not always, you do what is called scroll, which is roll a wheel so that the comments will proceed vertically in on themselves. a wheel is a simple machine which makes movement happen. this morning, the gawkers were talking about the awful photograph of rihanna in the comments section of the page in which it was posted. mostly one person was complaining about the awful photograph being posted and other people were talking about his or her complaints and whether those complaints were valid or invalid or in the gray area and were doing what is called sharing about this. sharing is something that is sometimes illegal on the internet but sometimes not and in this case was not. the commenter who was complaining about the awful photograph being posted by gawker called him or herself minou which made me think of a small fish and which according to the internet in french means pussy. pussy is a word which means many things including cat but can also refer to the female area. it can also refer to a whole person by connotation of the female area, which is a part of a whole person but not the whole person. when a part of a thing is used to refer to the whole thing, that is called synecdoche. in greek, which is its original language, synecdoche means “simultaneous understanding” according to somebody on the internet, although that is a translation which translations are not always perfect and sometimes things are lost which is the subject of a movie or at least its title. minou and the commenters on gawker were sharing and complaining about the awful photograph of rihanna maybe to try to get “simultaneous understanding” but probably for a lot more reasons which may include narcissism and boredom which a lot of people agree are bad things although not as bad as hitting a woman in the face but somewhat more bad than things which are good, like kissing a woman on the face, although kissing a woman on the face can also be a bad thing if she does not prefer it, which they often do not. but minou and the gawkers were not typing about hitting and kissing and whether they are good or bad but instead were typing about whether photographs of hitting or kissing and in particular hitting are good or bad and whether they should be gotten and given on the internet and in particular on gawker. there is an old phil spector song which goes “he hit me and it felt like a kiss” which some people think is romantic but a lot of people do not, not at all or not mostly, which was recently covered by the band grizzly bear who a lot of people, especially people in new york where gawker is located physically (although of course gawker is on the internet which is not physical but also is) think are romantic but some do not. phil spector is a songwriter but he is also a man who had a gun and allegedly did very bad things to a woman with the gun, including killing her. until someone can prove that a person did something, a journalist has to say that the person did it “allegedly,” even if the something involves a gun, unless that gun is smoking, of course. a smoking gun is “something that serves as indisputable evidence or proof, especially of a crime” and the smoking gun is a website which posts public records, including a lot of awful photographs of famous people. in the comments section under the awful photograph of rihanna posted on gawker, minou and the gawkers shared a lot of comments and typed them so that one has to scroll down very far vertically to read them all, although probably not as far as the scroll of paper where jack kerouac typed on the road, which is in a museum now and is very famous and a lot of people come to see it. interior scroll is a piece of performance art from the 1970s in which a woman artist onstage pulled a scroll, which is a long piece of paper which proceeds out from itself, out of her female area, which is also called a pussy, which is also called a minou in french, allegedly. that scroll may also be in a museum i don’t know but i do know it is not as famous as the scroll on which jack kerouac typed on the road, which some people might call phallocentric, which means centric on the phallo, which means penis, which can feel like a hit or a kiss, depending on length and context.
on jezebel, which is a site by and for women, which means not phallocentric, commenters also typed and scrolled about the awful photograph of rihanna. jezebel is a site which is by and for women although not owned by a woman but owned by the owner of gawker, a man, a gay man, and which is a part of gawker but not the whole. the editor of jezebel, anna, posted a post about how she knew about the awful photograph of rihanna and how she was not posting or linking to the awful photograph but only posting about how she was not posting or linking to it. generally this pleased people, at least people who are talkers instead of only gawkers and could be reached for comment.
jezebel is a name of a woman in the bible who was thrown to dogs and eaten, although nobody took a picture of it then because that was in the past when they didn’t have cameras. now jezebel means different things including slut but also the opposite of slut, which is called postfeminism, which means after feminism, which is about taking things back. once a picture or thing is on the internet it is very hard to take it back, especially if it is a popular or famous or awful picture or thing. in the past, all that was left of jezebel after she was thrown to the dogs were her skull and feet and hands. if we found her skull and feet and hands today, we would be very happy about this fact and it would be a miracle of finding and seeing things and technology. we would put the bones of her skull and feet and hands in a museum and look at them and everybody would want to come and look at them because they were old famous bones, which everybody likes to see in museums like dinosaurs, and also we would take pictures of them and put them on the internet so that people could also see them there.
the editor of jezebel who wrote about the awful photograph of rihanna is named anna. anna is a name which is related to anne which is the name of a girl in the past who wrote a sad diary which lots of people read every year and it makes them sad and other things. anne’s diary was sad and lots of people read it every year, mostly children, and they read it and it makes them sad. most people think that being sad by reading anne’s diary is a good and necessary thing, a productive thing or a thing which makes you think about other things which are good and necessary. according to somebody on the internet, “anne’s diary began as a private expression of her thoughts and she wrote several times that she would never allow anyone to read it.” that was forgotten, though, the private part, if not by anne then by someone else, and most people would argue the forgetting is a good thing because of the way that anne’s diary about sad things makes people feel sad in a good way. her diary was printed and posted and a lot of people have read it a lot of times and it makes them sad but they like it or think it necessary to be sad by reading her diary. jezebel, which is edited by anna, is a blog, which is like a diary but also like a newspaper, which is different but less different now than in the past.
in the past, a newspaper was prized for what it could give its readers that other newspapers could not, that it could get what could not be got anywhere else, that the good of news and newspapers was in getting and giving to the reader that which could not be gotten or given elsewhere. evelyn waugh wrote a book in the past called scoop which i did not read but which the title seems important and a lot of people like to mention it often, some or many of whom who have not read it. someone said the online newspaper the daily beast takes its title from the title of a newspaper in scoop. the daily beast did not post the awful photograph of rihanna but did post a post describing the photograph, which is different. in the past, journalism was described as yellow which is not as good as blue or gold but probably better than red although i suppose that depends on your politics. journalism now doesn’t have a color probably because of political correctness although we are all trying to be green which involves paperless or at least less paper. journalism now is different and partly this is because newspapers are different now, too. one different thing is that the the newspapers are sometimes not paper, like the daily beast or the huffington post, that is one thing, that they are paperless sometimes, although there is still news, allegedly.
sometimes newspapers are called dinosaurs which does not mean that they have teeth or are in museums but means that they are old. a newspaper is only important when it is new which is today and when it is old it is only important for museums and perhaps libraries. the rolling stones wrote a song once called “yesterday’s papers” which is partially about this but partially about sluts and how they feel about them. this is called a metaphor. one of the posters for jezebel used to be called slut machine and was proud of the name but then changed it later because she was not proud of it anymore. sometimes time changes things, including time and the times. newspapers are old and existed in the past and they still exist in the present, though somewhat less so. in the past, the getting and giving which newspapers did was what they were prized for and they were given prizes for the best news stories that they gave or got and these were called scoops. scoops are important sometimes even now but also important now on the internet is what news is not given, which is a new development though not a scoop. on jezebel, the editor whose name is anna which is like anne who is frank which means true, did not post the awful photograph of rihanna and generally this pleased people, at least those who commented, which is similar but different to reached for comment, which is something they say in newspapers. this is an interesting thing and a new thing, the not giving pleasing people. maybe this a thing because of all the things on the internet, which is a net of sorts, because there are so many things available on the internet now, a lot of things, more things than we can think of. there are so many things available to everybody all the time that the new newspapers online, which are sometimes called blogs, which are like diaries, somewhat, are sometimes more important for what they do not give us than what they do give us. instead of getting and giving, they are more about selecting, which means choosing, which also sometimes means not choosing or choosing not and et cetera. this is a gray area which is big and vague and hard to define, like space or the internet. people agree or disagree about this choosing or not choosing and they type their agreement or disagreement into comments and post them and then those posted comments are placed under the choice or not choice and if you want you do what is called scroll to see all of them, of which there are a lot, an awful lot.
February 18, 2009
when I first noticed the hole, it was small, really small. i was getting ready for work one morning, brushing my teeth, that stuff, and all of a sudden there it was, on my stomach, a few inches west of my belly button. small — had maybe the circumference of a BB, the hole. i didn’t remember getting shot with a BB recently and getting shot with a BB is the sort of thing you remember, you know? so it wasn’t that, i was pretty sure. i poked the hole and it didn’t hurt or anything so after staring at it for a second i just buttoned my shirt and left for my first call of the day. i was already running late and, really, who has the time to sit around staring at their stomach all day, hole or no hole?
the weird thing about the hole, though, besides the general fact of it being a hole on my stomach where there was no hole previously, was that it was totally black inside, pitch black. usually when you get a cut or whatever, you see the layers of skin and blood and biological stuff underneath, all the goop that keeps us alive. when we were kids, my brother caught his leg on a merry go round at the playground and snapped his shin right in half. the bone popped out of the skin and tore open his leg and what i remember most besides him screaming like a little bitch and the pee puddle he left in the sand was how white the bone looked, white and bony, just like skeletons looked in comic books
inside my hole, though, it was different, you couldn’t see anything — inside was just dark blackness and…black darkness. i don’t know, i guess i”m not very good at describing things, but what i can tell you for sure is it was weird, i can definitely tell you that much, definitely weird and also definitely dark. it didn’t make sense that something in my body could be that dark.
still, despite the darkness and the holeyness and all that, i didn’t think much of the hole. sometimes the body does strange and unpredictable things. i saw a TV documentary once about siamese twins joined at the head and another show about people who have honest-to-god tails. life is a mystery and i’m no detective, so i ignored the hole and went on with my day. things were going pretty good then and i didn’t really feel like spending my time sitting around thinking about holes.
i had actually completely forgotten about the hole when shelley noticed it a few nights later, in bed. we had been getting high and eating food and watching cartoons like we did most nights. it was a good thing we had going. shelley had been sort of unconsciously rubbing her hand along my chest and stomach which was kind of nice and love-like except that she had been eating cheetos and so her fingers had that cheeto crud on them which i hated, god, and which was sticking to my skin all grossly.
then, for some reason, her hand stopped. she said something, i don’t remember what exactly, pulled back the covers and sat up. i didn’t know why she was doing it at the time but i was annoyed because it was a pivotal moment in the show and the disruption was disrupting me.
“what’s that?” she said, pointing. i looked down at my stomach, past the orange streaks of cheeto crud, and saw the hole. it seemed that it had grown — it was now dime-sized.
“oh, that,” i said. “i don’t know. a hole. it’s pretty weird, right?”
“yeah,” she said.
she stared at it for a second and then ate another handful of cheetos and we went back to watching the cartoon. the one we were watching, the 12:15 cartoon, was about some kids who get magical dental work that gives them superpowers, like one of them has a retainer that shoots laser beams and another has a lasso of floss, and they’re fighting this villain made entirely of taffy and ABC gum and his head is a caramel apple. it was decent.
at that point, though. i couldn’t focus on the TV, because then i was thinking about the hole and how it kind of hurt a little. not much, not even enough to really call it hurting, it just felt like after somebody pinches you and your skin sort of tingles, i guess.
eventually the show ended and there were commercials and shelley was back at the hole like a pig in shit (or in a hole). she stuck the end of her little finger into it and then quickly pulled it out, testing. it felt strange when she did it, like if someone could tickle you from the inside. when she pulled out her finger, it was dry, no blood or goop or anything. it was weird.
“it feels kind of cold inside,” she said. “cold and weird.”
“i know,” i said. “it is weird.”
i was eating M & M’s at that point, which was awesome. i like to eat three M & M’s at a time. to me, three M & M’s is the exact right amount of M & M’s. one or two isn’t enough of a chocolaty flavor explosion but when you get to more than three, you’re really wasting your M & M’s and making the possible time you could spend with the M & M’s unnecessarily short and also you get that gross feeling of sugar residue collecting on the sides of your mouth. as i was getting another three M & M’s, a difficult thing to do sometimes, one rolled out of the bag onto my stomach, a red one. for whatever stupid reason, shelley picked it up, and, before i could stop her, she popped it right into the hole. i felt it inside me for a second, like floating, and then it just disappeared, gone, no mas.
“oh my god, what are you doing?” i semi-yelled. i sat up fast and reached for the hole, like i could get the M & M back.
“um, I don’t know,” she said. she kept staring at the hole.
“i could get an infection or something,” i said. “that’s not cool.” i tried to bend over so i could look into the hole but i’m not very flexible so i didn’t get far. i couldn’t see any M & M, though, that was for sure.
“sorry” she said, grabbing at my fingers. “it just…looked like it would fit. holes are for putting things in.”
she was really high so i felt bad getting mad at her and it’s not like it would make a difference, anyway. we went back to watching TV. well, she did at least. i tried, but i couldn’t concentrate. my feelings were complicated and blurry. i didn’t know where the red M & M had gone. it had completely disappeared. that didn’t make sense, it wasn’t how bodies worked. i remembered things from science class, random things, solid bold sentences from textbooks and chalkboards. a body at rest stays at rest. matter cannot be created or destroyed. the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. i remembered these things and at first it seemed like they might mean something important and scientific so i rolled them around in my brain for a while but in conclusion they just made me more confused. being confused is not a good feeling but it’s a feeling that everybody has sometimes and i have more than sometimes which is often.
but then also i was distracted because after the M & M had fallen in, there had been this other feeling besides the confused, this nice feeling. it kind of felt like if you have an itch in a place that’s hard to scratch and so you just have to deal with it for a while and try to ignore it but then eventually you can take your sock off or unbutton your shirt or reach around when no one’s looking and finally scratch it and it feels so good, finally, at last like in that song. under the covers, i dropped another M & M into the hole and i had the feeling again, although not as strong as the first time. i dropped in another one and felt nothing.
the hole grew slowly. the day after the M & M’s, i woke up and it was as big as a quarter. after a few more days, it was as wide as a tangerine and the pain was getting kind of distracting. it was weird because it wasn’t like normal stomach pain, there weren’t cramps or nausea. i didn’t really even feel it in my stomach, even though that’s where the hole was. it was like the pain was inside me and outside me at the same time. god, i know that sounds stupid. my grandmother has these reader’s digests in her bathroom and i read one time that when people lose an arm or a leg, sometimes they still feel things in this arm or leg that they don’t have, ghost feelings. that’s what it kind of felt like, i think, although i guess not totally because i didn’t lose anything, as far as i know. i didn’t like it, i’ll tell you that much, that much i can tell you for sure. complicated and mysterious pain hurts just as much as regular pain, only different.
the other weird thing that happened was that with the pain i also began to get this urge to put things into the hole. it was like being hungry, but not like regular being hungry, different. like, i didn’t feel it in my stomach, i felt it everywhere else in my body, in my knees and ears and fingertips, eyelids and armpits etc. when i first started feeling the feeling, i thought maybe i was just really hungry or maybe i had a worm or something, like a tape worm that was eating all the things in my stomach before i could get the good stuff out of them. so i would eat and eat — i would eat an entire pizza, cheese crust and garlic sauce, bread sticks, the whole deal, and it would do nothing for the feeling, i still felt it. it had nothing to do with stomach hunger at all, i found out — i ate so much cookie dough one night that i threw up, but once i was out of the bathroom, the urge was right there again, the feeling.
one day, it was just all too much and i couldn’t take it anymore so i went into the kitchen to try to find something to put in the hole. i had tried the M & M’s again earlier in the day but a whole family size bag of them had done nothing. looking down at my stomach, i decided that the hole was about as big as an apple and so that seemed like the logical thing to put into it (also, we had just bought apples). i pulled a medium-size granny smith out of the crisper and wiped it off on a hand towel — i don’t know why, it’s just what you do with apples, right? usually when i wipe an apple, i don’t even think about the wiping, it’s a blur, a nothing, but i wiped that apple for a long time, like it was a jewel or something. i wanted it clean, really clean. when i finally couldn’t wipe it anymore, i held it in front of the hole with both hands, looking at it and the hole, comparing their sizes. then i pushed it in and it was gone, zap, the way files disappear from your computer trash can when you delete them.
the relief was amazing and the pain was completely gone. i couldn’t even stand up — i sat on the kitchen floor with the refrigerator open, leaning against a cupboard, breathing. i felt like i had won a war or game of some kind and now it was time for rewards, for settling up, for the bonus round. i sat there on the cold floor and listened to the fan hum and looked into the clear, lighted compartments of the fridge, at all the new possible things i could put in the hole now. in the lowest level of the fridge door, there was a half a jar of maraschino cherries, bright red like drugstore lipstick. i opened the jar and tipped it into the hole, not scared anymore. the cherries plopped into the darkness one by one, riding on the juice. as each one disappeared, i felt a little something all through my body, a little good thing that was fine and all right. as i finished the jar, a few drops of the juice dribbled out of the edge the hole and rolled down my belly, leaving a trail.
but by the weekend, i had gone through a whole fridge full of food and nothing was working anymore, nothing was making the feeling go away — not whipped cream, not sardines packed in oil, not a whole dozen farm fresh eggs. grated cheddar cheese, rocky road ice cream, hot fudge hot and cold, carrots and bell peppers and avocados — nada. nothing would make the pain of the hole go away for more than a couple of hours. for breakfast one morning, i was pouring a box of cereal into the hole, the kind with the colored marshmallows that are shaped like shapes of things. the relief i was getting from this was minimal until suddenly for a second it was much better, so good. i checked the box and realized that i had poured a plastic figurine of a spaceman into the hole, that that was what had made the good feeling. from then on, i put both eatable and uneatable stuff into the hole, anything, just whatever would fit.
the hole and the feelings began to distract me at work, which was no good at all. my job is that i install, service, and repair copy machines locally in the area and no bragging but i’m pretty good at it. it’s not a job that anybody thinks of until they need you and then they think of it and how. people don’t care or think about their copiers even though they probably use them more than any other machine in the office besides the telephone. they don’t understand that each machine has quirks and foibles, a personality — they probably think that all copiers are just copies of each other, of one basic machine that just gets different labels put on it. it annoys me because the copiers (and to a lesser degree faxes) are beautifully constructed and finely tuned machines that get nothing but abuse every day of their lives — people slam or misload the paper trays, overstuff them with toner or try to run them on empty, kick and curse them when they jam.
one day at work, the hole started to hurt so much that i couldn’t even see straight. i was in a little room in the back of this law office, realigning a print head on their ancient Sharp C Series. i was scrunched up, half in and half out of the plastic housing when the feeling hit me like a truck or a ton of bricks or another hard and heavy thing. i pulled myself out of the machine and looked around for things i could put in the hole. but it was a copy room, there was nothing there except paper, loads of white paper in A3 and A4 and A7 and so on. i grabbed sheets of it in big handfuls and crumpled them into balls which i crammed quick into the hole, more and more, until i had finished off a whole carton. the paper was weak — it didn’t make me feel good, but at least it made me feel less bad. a receptionist in a brown skirt walked in, stared at me, and walked out. i left right after that and got a voicemail later in the day that their office would no longer be requiring my services.
eventually, i stopped going on calls and mostly just sat on the couch all day, getting high and watching TV and eating food and putting things into the hole. it would have been awesome, like summer vacation, except for the hole, which kept growing and hurting no matter what i did. i tried to test the hole by alternating periods of putting a lot of things in it and then periods of not putting anything, but it didn’t really seem to make a difference and the hole hurt less, at least, when i was putting things in it so i kept putting things in it. after about a week on the couch, the hole had grown to the circumference of a cantaloupe. it was disturbing to look at all the time so i wore a shirt over it, even though that made it inconvenient when it was time to put things in the hole. i always had to carefully tuck the shirt into my pants and stretch it very tight, because if i didn’t it would get partly sucked into the hole and sometimes i couldn’t get it out again and i only had so many shirts.
when the hole had gotten to be about as wide as a basketball, when it covered basically my entire stomach, i went to the doctor. the feeling from the hole had gotten pretty bad at that point, serious. i know i should have gone sooner, i know, of course, if my mom was still with us she’d have yelled at me but i hate going to the doctor, doctors make me nervous. i kept thinking, stupidly, that the hole might go away on its own.
in the waiting room, there was an old lady sitting across from me with a little boy, probably her grandson or something. to try to stop the hole from hurting, i pulled my shirt up a little and shoved some magazines into it, a people and a time and a good housekeeping with a picture of an apple pie on the cover. the boy’s eyes bugged out when he saw. he pulled his t-shirt up really high and started jabbing at his stomach with a rolled up copy of highlights. the old lady snatched the magazine away from him and shot me a dirty look. i felt bad, not only on account of the old lady, but also because the magazines didn’t do much for the hole anyway and afterwards i worried that they might have germs on them that would make me or the hole sick.
in the second waiting room, i was alone. that was good, it made things easier. in the children’s play area, i found a small house built from legos. i thought it was beautiful, a good design, and so when i lifted it into the hole, i was careful not to break it. next to the house, a child had spelled the word “BLUE” with large wooden blocks. i put these into the hole, one by one, B L U E.
when i sat down on the table in the doctor’s office and took off my shirt, the nurse didn’t seem surprised at all by the hole. she just weighed me and took my blood pressure and temperature and left, said the doctor would be with me in a few minutes. she seemed almost bored with me and my hole and that made feel a lot better. nurses have seen everything, i thought. i wasn’t special, this hole wasn’t a big deal at all, i would be fine. i wished i had come to the doctor sooner — this was great, a great thing, a great day. i dropped half a jar of cotton balls into the hole for good measure.
the doctor, when he appeared, gently probed the edges of the hole with his powdery gloves and asked me, over and over again, “does this hurt? what about this? more or less?” i tried to tell him that the hole didn’t hurt on the outside, that it hurt on the inside, kind of, that it didn’t hurt in the way pain usually hurts but hurt in its own special way, but he didn’t seem to understand. i guess it’s kind of my fault; i’m not very good at talking about things or explaining them and also doctors make me nervous.
he had me breathe in and out deeply while he looked at the hole from different angles; he got down on the floor at one point to look up into it, even. he was very thorough. he shined tiny lights into the hole and held his stethoscope over it, listening carefully. i asked him if i could listen, too, like when you’re a little kid and the doctor lets you hear your heartbeat. he gave me the headphones and i listened really carefully but Iicouldn’t hear anything. he stuck a tongue depressor into the hole and pushed it so far that his entire hand and his arm past the elbow were inside me, but then eventually he pulled his hand out, wrinkling his forehead. he pulled off his gloves and flexed the hand a few times. “it’s really cold in there,” he said.
after making some notes on my chart, he pulled his chair up close to me and crossed his legs and said he was sorry but there was nothing he could do about the hole. this was not the answer i wanted to hear or expected. i asked him if the hole would continue to grow. it was already pretty big and i didn’t know how much bigger it could possibly get, if soon there would be more hole than me, if i would be all hole. he said he didn’t think so but he didn’t know, you couldn’t predict these things, holes were unpredictable. it might get bigger, it might get smaller, it might go away in a week, he said. he said that the hole didn’t seem to be affecting any vital functions and that despite the huge mysterious hole in my stomach, i was actually very healthy for someone my age. i said great. if i wanted, he said, he could refer me to someone who i could talk to about the hole, but he didn’t know if it would be covered by my insurance and if not it would probably be pricey. i said no thanks and left, grabbing a handful of lollipops at reception which i shoved into the hole as soon as i got outside.
on my way home from the doctor’s office, i stopped at the dollar store. the dollar store was a great source of things for the hole. the things i got there weren’t as satisfying as some of the more rare or expensive things that i had put in the hole but there was a very wide selection and the stuff was cheap and small, so as to better fit inside the hole. also, there weren’t many employees so i could easily slip things into the hole right in the store without even buying them. i know that’s bad but i was in a bad situation. besides, if someone saw me and said something (it never happened), i could always show them that i didn’t have whatever they thought they saw me take and also the hole would probably freak them out enough to stop them talking.
at first, i was really into ping pong balls, which at the dollar store came in packages of three in multiple colors and designs. there were also toy soldiers, which i had always loved ever since i was a kid. if i could get them home without opening them, i would play with them a little before throwing them into the hole, have an imaginary battle on the carpet. overall, there was an excellent toy section which i always checked out for new stock first thing but there were also other great items there like sponges and lightbulbs and tiny glass bottles of imitation maple syrup. that day after the doctor’s office, i was really down, though, and the dollar store wasn’t giving me the usual lift it usually gave me, so i didn’t stay long — i just put some hair scrunchies into the hole, bought a few eyeglass repair kits, and left.
next door to the dollar store was a pet shop, a little one, not one of those ones that looks like an alternate walmart but one of those ones that looks like a pet shop in a movie, except dirtier. in the window there were these puppies, the cute, little kind (brown). i mean, i guess all puppies are cute and little at some point but these were the kind that stayed cute and little for a while, maybe for a long while but at least until you got them home from the store. through the window, i looked at the puppies and the puppies looked at me and they played, playfully. i liked watching them, it reminded me of that internet site where they showed videos of puppies all the time, really cute ones. it was popular for a while, and i remember back then it was weird then because girls i knew kept saying they just wanted to eat them and i thought that was weird because why would you eat a dog if you weren’t chinese? i tapped on the glass and one of the puppies barked at my finger but it was cute, little barking, a nice noise.
i went inside and talked to the clerk and as it turns out dogs are really expensive, even the little ones, especially them. i mean, i had no idea, not just the cost of the dog itself but also all the other stuff they make you buy, leash and shots and food and all that. a dog seemed like the right thing for me right then and i wanted one, bad, the cute barking one in particular, but it was just too far outside my budget and so i bought a family of white mice which i said were for my pet boa constrictors and went home.
i tried to make a copy of the hole. i thought that maybe the scanning element of a state of the art xerox 550 or canon CFM professional would be powerful enough to let me see into the hole and figure out what to do about it. i thought i could take a copy to the doctor, a high resolution one on nice paper, good heavyweight stock, vellum, and he might be able to suggest something, kind of like an MRI or an x-ray. so i stuffed the hole as full as i could of sudoku puzzles and rubber bands and then went into one of the offices that i had serviced a couple weeks before, an insurance company. i told the receptionist that i was there for some routine maintenance. she waved me through without even looking at me. in the copy room, i mounted the scanning plate, set the resolution and print quality to the highest setting, knocked down the contrast a little, and pressed “copy.” i could feel the light as it passed through the hole, the line moving from top to bottom. the printer made its printing sound and out popped my image, on A3. at the top of it, you could see my nipples, the little hairs curled up and pressed against my skin, and under that was just flat black, so dark, the toner coming off on my fingers and smearing towards the edges of the paper.
eventually, the pain from the hole got so bad that all i could do was lay on the floor right in front of the TV, occasionally sticking into the hole paperback romance novels and jars of strawberry jam, gumball machine toys, monopoly money, burned CD mixtapes, and neighborhood cats I would lure in with thin-sliced deli meat. sometimes something i would put in the hole would offer a kind of relief but it would usually fade quick. one afternoon, i put a big scrapbook of shelley’s family photos into the hole. she had hid it under the sink behind a pipe and a box of garbage bags because i had put most of the things left in the apartment into the hole at that point. i had only been pretending to sleep when she hid it, though, so i knew where it was. i tried for a while, a long while, it felt like, to not put the scrapbook in the hole because i knew it was so important to her but i just kept thinking about it, about what it would feel like to have it inside me, about how maybe it was the key to filling the hole, one last thing, the cherry on top. one morning, as soon as she closed the door on her way to work, i hobbled my way over to the sink, pulled out the book, and stuck it in the hole without even looking at it.
the relief was immediate. the scrapbook made the pain go away completely, in my whole body. it was incredible, i had fixed the hole, i had finally filled it. no mas. i stood up, i danced, i did jumping jacks, i skipped around the apartment. thoughts raced through my head of all things i could do. i could do anything, i could go to disney world like a football player being interviewed on TV. then, as i was thinking about a beach and umbrella drinks, a wave of pain from the hole hit me and i was on the floor again, reaching for a roll of bubble wrap i had stolen from the recycling bin and saved under the couch.
shelley was so incredible through all of it, even after the scrapbook thing. she set up a pallet on the floor in front of the TV and laid there with me every night when she got off work. even after i put the pillows and blankets and sheet into the hole, still she laid there with me on the bare mattress, shivering. she brought me things, too, special things that she would look for that she thought might help, might solve the hole: a wheel from a unicycle, clown make-up, japanese candy. before the hole we had been having fun together and we liked the same cartoons and stuff but i can’t say it had been anything serious, love-like but not like love. the hole had really brought us together, is what some TV relationship doctor would say.
one night, the pain was so bad that i was laying there just breathing, focusing on my breathing, putting everything I had into “in” and “out.” the TV was on the shopping channel, the sound off, just the light of it flickering above us – a shiny thing was being sold for a price ending in “.99.” shelley was laying beside me on the floor, holding my hand and running her thumb up and down in my palm in rhythm with my breathing, like she was trying to help me breathe, like that’s something another person can do for you if they just try hard enough. it was then that I had to to tell her what i’d been thinking about for days.
“i need you to get into the hole,” i said.
“i can’t,” she said. “no.”
“please?” I said.
she sighed and rolled over and started kissing me on the forehead, little dry-lipped kisses to try to make me feel better. before the hole, before things became like they were, maybe they would have, but now they just weren’t enough, they didn’t do anything. it was like the hole was one of those big movie monsters, like godzilla or king kong or something, and her kisses were just bullets shot by tiny soldiers that bounced off and did nothing.
i put my hand around the back of her head, like i wanted to pull her closer for a kiss, a real kiss, and then i grabbed her hair and shoved her head down into the hole. she screamed and screamed, scraped at me with her fingers, kneed me in the thigh, but even in my condition, i was stronger than her. she was pretty small. the screaming was awful but once i got her head and neck completely in the hole, it wasn’t so loud anymore — i could still hear her but it sounded like when you hear things underwater and they’re all smudged out and echoey. i turned her sideways so that her shoulders and boobs and all the rest of her would fit in and began to pull her, inch by inch. after a while, not even very long, i was pushing down on the bottoms of her little pink ankle socks, still warm, and then she was inside me, gone.
having her there in the hole with me felt so good. the only way i can think to describe it is it felt like after thanksgiving dinner when you’re laying around in the living room and the weight of the food you ate and your blood sugar and that chemical in the turkey is making you sleepy and happy and good. you’re with your family and everybody is loving each other, squeezed into sofas, and they’re all having that turkey feeling, too, and you’re watching a rerun of some old movie on TV and it feels like everything is slow motion and colored funny, like in old pictures of times when light was warm. that’s what it felt like when she got in the hole, times a thousand. it felt better than anything i’ve ever felt in my entire life. but then, five minutes later, it went away. it went away and all i could feel was the hole.
that’s when I went looking for you.
(images from kissing the ceiling by fred muram, via andrew sullivan)
February 15, 2009
February 13, 2009
there’s that stupid hornbyesque debate about whether you’re a beatles person or a stones person and if you’re a beatles person that’s supposed to mean i guess that you’re idealistic and a dreamer and wear t-shirts and if you’re a stones person that’s supposed to mean you’re dirty and outre and have a predilection for pentatonic scales and whiskey. or something. i’m a who person, though, which doesn’t mean anything except that i’m weird. that’s because i’m too weird to pick a side in the great rock music binary but also because the who are/were weird. my first favorite album (back when having a favorite album seemed like such a vital, important thing) was the who sell out, which is a concept album about pirate radio stations which were located on ships off the coast of england and is loaded with loads of faux-product placement and skits. every band that releases enough music will eventually record some weird songs (the beatles have “piggies” and “good morning, good morning” and “martha my dear”, just to name the animal themed ones; the stones have that whole satanic majesties album as well as numerous things during the eighties) but basically all of the who’s songs are weird songs, besides the few cliche daltrey and moon-penned numbers and some motown covers on their first album. their weirdness is, i think, exemplified by their love songs. most bands have lots of pretty, universal i wanna make it with you kind of pop love/sex songs. the who don’t. pete townshend and jon entwistle’s love songs are either weird character studies (“substitute,” about being inauthentic) or weird issue oriented songs (“pictures of lily,” about jerking off to porn) or if they are love songs they’re about grandiose cosmic hippy dippy love (“see me, feel me“) and not person to person love.
“can’t explain” is probably the who’s least weird love song, besides the aforementioned daltrey/moon crap (other possibilities — sunrise, you better you bet). it’s almost too unweird; the lyrics are basic and stupid (i mean, god, there’s a blue/true rhyme) and are really just there as filler around the riff, like powder on a jelly donut. in covering it, i feel like dealing with the riff (that riff!) was the biggest thing i had. i either had to completely emphasize it (making the song all about the riff and nothing else) or i had to get rid of it entirely — no lame AOR middle ground. i decided to get rid of the riff and just do it with a punky downstroke bassline and a digitally distorted 909. i tried to add some synths but they didn’t fit for some reason so there’s just the one in the instrumental verse.
since i’m posting one lo-fi classic rock cover, i figured i might as well post this one too, which i recorded a while ago but didn’t release for obvious reasons, the obvious reasons being that it is absolutely abysmal and i’ll stress that i’m releasing it as a document and not as a song; i want to stress that. early last fall, i had this idea to do this thing with julia allison’s lipdubs where i would invert them — that is, i would have the video of her pretending to sing but then as the audio track i would have a naked acapella instead of the original song. the idea was to defamiliarize and emphasize the pomo weirdness of singing along to your ipod alone in front of a camera to post on the internet. the first thing i realized is that no matter how good i think it sounds in the shower, i can’t sing acapella. but then i decided that i would do a band arrangement and so problem solved. the smart way to do that would’ve been to, i guess, get the tempo locked down in sync with the original and lay in some drum parts and then build everything around that but, see, i am not smart like that and so i just tried to play guitar along with the video and then add all the parts on top of that, especially trying to match my vocal to julia allison’s lip movements in the video.
except that doesn’t work at all, leading to this trainwreck of a song. i do like that if i destroyed a song, i destroyed “don’t stop believin’.” don’t get me wrong, i think it’s a great song and not in that stupid hipster “OMG it’s my turn at karaoke” kind of way but just because it’s a good song well arranged and produced and steve perry is a great singer. but it’s still better for me to trash it because of all the trash that’s been done to it — it seems fitting. god, this writing is horrible! what happened to me? i think i’m going to stop with the daily music tomorrow. i feel like the prose part of my brain is broken (like this song!) and i thought doing music for a week would help but i think it’s actually making it worse, if that’s possible. yargh. so i don’t like this post but i do like this song. it sucks but maybe in a nice way that feels good.
February 12, 2009
so i know i said i don’t like writing lyrics like two seconds ago, but actually writing the lyrics for this song was the most fun part of the thing. i guess that’s because i didn’t take it too seriously and i had genre conventions to play with so i didn’t have to worry so much about, you know, expressing myself. i’ve had the intro verse and chorus of this for a couple of months (that pussy/penis/weather part stuck in my head) but today i finally wrote the rest of the lyrics and recorded it. originally it was a lot more weird and pastiche-y — i would do the verses in this jokey johnny cash impression and then do a complete about-face and have a sincere cat power kind of chorus (i was playing the song on a clean electric instead of an acoustic then, so the cat power thing really came through). ultimately, i decided to play it a lot more straight in terms of vocal performance and production although i still like the little bit of contrast between the verse and chorus. most choruses tend to get bigger than the verses that precede them but i like that this chorus gets smaller.
February 11, 2009
i couldn’t figure out enough things that a person could lose for the song to just be composed of the “don’t lose your ____” parts, which was the original idea, so instead i made them the first half of the verses and then added some pseudo-metapoetic blah blah for the second half of the verses. then i couldn’t figure out words that would fit the chorus so i just made vowel sounds. then i couldn’t figure out a title so i just used the sounds from the chorus. then. so.
February 10, 2009
my least favorite part of songwriting is writing lyrics. i really can’t stand to do it. it’s probably because as a listener i don’t really care about lyrics that much either. when i’m really listening to music i go into this semi-autistic kind of trance state and am only kind of quasi-aware of the lyrics — the lyrics really just have to be good enough to not distract me from the overall sound image. i am so not one of those kinds of people talking about how dylan/lil wayne is poetry, man, poetry and like is studying the lyric sheet to pick up on all the heavy insight and stuff. as someone who is both a writer and musician, i like writing for the writing part of it and music for its musical qualities. and also i just find writing song lyrics so much harder than writing prose. littered across my hard drive are so many aborted projects where i’ve recorded part or even a whole arrangement of a song but failed to come up with lyrics and had to leave it behind to get dusty and old and forgotten.
i feel like lately i’ve been playing a lot of wussy acoustic guitar kind of stuff and today i wanted to break out of that and do a heavy rock kind of thing. so today i was browsing through the archives and found this really kick ass delayed drum loop i made like six months ago and decided to do a song around it (you can hear how it sounds unaccompanied at the very end of the song). back then, when i first made the loop, i had tried to accompany it with this big house piano to try to make a sort of anthemic M83 song. it sounded kind of cool but the problem, as always, was the lyrics. the lyrics i know how to write are so self conscious and silly that they’re antithetical to anthems. this makes me unique and idiosyncratic but it’s also problematic because it means the only place i can really express the big teenage emotions that make great pop music are in my covers, but then you can’t do covers all the time.
so the solution i came up with today, since i wanted to make a song in like an hour without thinking, was that i wasn’t going to write the lyrics and instead would steal them. i thought i would make the song composed of spoken word intros and interludes stolen from other songs, since i really love spoken word intros and interludes. thus, the first verse of the song is me repeating 4x the intro to the new york dolls’ “looking for a kiss.” i used to pretend to like the new york dolls; i actually really don’t care for them except for the song “trash,” a little bit of “lonely planet boy,” and, most of all, more than their actual music, the spoken word intro to “looking for a kiss.” i wanted the second verse to be me doing the spoken word intro to blondie’s “x offender,” which is my second favorite spoken word intro, but the metrical structure didn’t work or something and so i had to ditch it. instead, i did a reading of a verse of david bowie’s “five years,” which is, you know, not technically spoken word but i felt it was kind of glam and hipstery and dramatic enough to match the new york dolls bit and also i just really really love it a lot. the only original part of the song is the chorus, which is me just me shouting about wanting cool love above all other love. that’s not really how i feel, i don’t think, since i’m really not that cool and the things i fantasize about with love aren’t cool at all in a hipster way but i think i think about being cool and what that means a lot more than most people and so that’s where the chorus came from. the song is kind of sneery and mean and mocking about this “cool love,” in the same way that lily allen’s “the fear,” which i saw on the today show this morning, is sneery and mean and mocking about celebrity culture. i don’t normally like sneery and mean and mocking art but i feel like this song (and that lily allen song, which i like a lot) are also vulnerable and self-implicating and i feel like that makes them less mean or at least makes their meanness more understandable and morally acceptable.
or beyond all that just hopefully it sounds cool, which is all that’s intended, really. i ditched the m83 thing and went for something sort of goth. or maybe like a way more simplistic version of the kills. also, i was kind of aping karen o with the distorted vocals although i overdistorted them a little too much so that maybe it’s kind of hard to understand what i’m singing, but like i said, the lyrics aren’t important. that kind of vocal sound is really addictive, not just because it hides pitch and tone issues but also because it adds all these lo-fi authenticity signifiers to what you’re singing and you just kind of automatically sound much cooler than you are. hopefully.
February 9, 2009
this is a song i recorded today called “mannequin.” it’s a love song from a mannequin to a fashion model. orginally the mannequin/model thing was supposed to be an allegory for feeling detached and inauthentic and modern love and all that but i couldn’t make that work and it sort of mutated into this bizarre fantasy about a literal mannequin who is in love with a model. i think most of my songs could be described as “rhyme-y,” for lack of a better word, but if that’s true then this one is extra rhyme-y. i mean in terms of there’s lots of internal rhyme and not just end rhymes and stuff. i mispronounced “de la renta” (like “de la soul”) and there are some other small things i’d like to fix (a lot of problems caused by time stretching) but i’m too lazy to rerecord the vocals. i think the chorus is clever the first time you hear it and then quickly becomes annoying, so that’s why i only go back to it once. once i got into the song, i decided i wanted it to be a product placement kind of song, like that fergie song from the sex and the city movie, but also to be kind of cole porterish (i’ve been playing around with a cole porterish cover of “chopped n’ skrewed”). i think that’s appropos because if cole was magically living today, you know he would be the producer du jour, rocking an MPC and selling more songs than kanye and blaze and the matrix and max martin put together.
the song was mostly inspired, though, by the copy of nylon i got at the airport yesterday. i never buy magazines because i’m frugal (thrifty/cheap/pick your adjective) but i’m really trying to work on it because if i ever want to write for a magazine then i should buy them so they’ll be around by the time i could write for them. but then if that’s true i should really buy magazines that i would/could actually write for but then i am distracted by glossy things and pretty pictures and celebrities so i mostly buy tabloids and etc. the magazine i buy most often is us weekly but then i’m always disappointed with it because there aren’t, you know, words to read in it. this was the first time i had gotten nylon and i really liked it — it was a good compromise between images and text and design. some of the writing is silly or stupid, of course, but silly or stupid in a really fun and attractive way. i guess that’s condescending and maybe even sexist but whatever, i am imperfect and complex, take me for who i am blah blah blah. like, one of the articles is about this girl going to the hershey’s chocolate factory (she’s “nylon‘s factory girl” — get it? *nudge nudge*). the article is kind of overly cutesy and ridic (“For the record, I am a chocolate aficionado, not a fanatic. If this were Pasta Land and I were making spaghetti, there is no doubt I would have eaten my weight in carbohydrates”) and the writer has the habit of adding these kind of cheesy parenthetical punchlines: “I am greeted by an employee in head-to-toe uniform, who informs me that I need to suit up as well, which avid readers know I love — lab coat, hairnet, no jewelry (OK, maybe I don’t love that part so much.)” “I particularly like the animatronic cows (got chocolate milk?)…” “I have the chance to snag one [a hershey kiss] right off the line, and it is definitely the best kiss I’ve ever had (ahem).”
but i still really like the writing, it still works for me, it still provokes an emotional response for me which is above neutral which is what i’m aiming for and which i don’t get just anywhere and which is definitely worth the 3.99. you hear like women go on about how “________ (thing that is not actually porn) is my porn.” but something like nylon is my porn. not just for the edgy pics of pretty girls in improbable outfits but also for the sillyfun writing, which is brain porn for me. it remind me of like when graphic designers have to insert text into something and they don’t have a copywriter and so they write things that are faux-deep but really just kind of adorable and pretentious. or like how makeover montages in movies are cliche but how that cliche seems almost unavoidably enjoyable and great. i know i am straying dangerously close to a semiserious (semisweet!) version of that jack donaghy line about women and ambition and dogs and clothes but of course badgood writing and thought and art is totes unisex, just like american apparel — it’s just that i prefer it, as with many things, to come from women. i like it sometimes and always, like in that song. writing doesn’t necessarily have to be good to be good, it just has to be good enough. see, and now i’ve done an extended example of just what i’ve been talking about, so who am i to criticize (haha LOL!).
February 9, 2009
virginia heffernan was kind enough to include the blog in her points of entry in this week’s new york times magazine. it is awful nice to see our (i am feeling kind of royal we today) name in print, even if it’s supposedly dying or dead or whatever (the print, not the name). even better is her column on sober house, which makes us wish that she was still a television critic all the time.