Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Rage Against the L

Lights out
Guerilla Radio
Turn that shit up


Rage Against the Machine is quickly becoming the band of 2004 for me. I've obsessed my way throught five catchy and very addictive tunes of theirs. Their sound, which didn't particularly appeal to rural Mark is very palatable to urban Mark.

First night of chair massage. Two hours later, I've decided I MUST have one. They're quite a versatile piece of equipment. I wonder how much I'll have to drop for one. They rule, and unlike my table, will actually fit into my Mustang. I was just thinking about how frugal I've been this year. If I really wanted to drop some cash, this wouldn't be a bad investment.

It's cold as shit here tonight, and my face feels like cold, oily leather. I'm sweaty, too. The lights on the L are flickering on and off. I wish they would just stay off. Flourescent overheads are so tiresome and unnourishing. I want either sunlight or ambient darkness.

Zero 7 is a great band too. Very slinky.

Take some time, just hang around awhile,
I'd like to sit this silent moment out,
I don't want to lose or let you down,
Time's just going to change itself around.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Clergy Molestation Alarm Clock

I woke up this morning to the not-so-gentle sounds of a broadcast on NPR. It was a recording of part of a new stage production that deals with Cardinal law and clergy molestation. And I wonder why I have weird nightmares. My alarm clock should be called a disturb clock.

As I listened to the words on this broadcast, taken directly from the written accounts of the victims, I wondered how a grown man, even a crazy one, could talk himself into molesting an adolescent boy. I mean it's not like murder, which we all feel like doing on a regular basis anyway. And it's not like thievery, which can be motivated by extremes of greed or necessity or even boredom. But how does one justify, no… not even justify… just rationalize molesting an alter boy?

Somewhere between tossing my chronically-stiff ankles over the side of the bed and when I first caught a glance at myself in the bathroom mirror, I realized something. It was just a twisted little bitter thought at first, but the more I humored it, the faster and clearer it grew. I dragged a razor bare across my wet face (the shaving cream bottle chose this morning to spurt no more), and this thought percolated into a fairly coherent argument:

The clergy use Catholicism as a way to rationalize their deviance.

Well, since a bolt of holy lightning didn't just strike me dead where I sit, perhaps I'll continue. Now mind you, I was admittedly still half asleep when I thought this up, but nonetheless… Just bear with me.

I tried to think of what stood out amongst all the teachings of Catholicism. Love, certainly. Compassion, yes, but overwhelmingly two other things: the inevitability of sin, and the paramount importance of forgiveness. Catholicism teaches that we are all sinners. Every single one of us is a helpless lamb that is doomed to commit a thousand evils upon our brethren and that, essentially, this is OK. All one needs to do is visit their local vicar of Christ and absolve themselves with a few tense words, a stuffy confessional, and about five thousand Hail Mary's.

So if these relics of an older age, these antiques, the keepers of a faith that bears little or no meaning to the living world, can accept the fact that they are sinners and that there is no way around it, then what the hell? There is no helping the fact that I'm a sinner. Let's go camping.

Don't you believe in God? They seem to ask from their grimy black and white newspaper photos. Don't you read the Bible? It's OK, your honor, haven't you heard? We're all sinners. I'm just like everyone else. I can't help myself. But Jesus still loves me…

Can't you just see it in their bewildered looks? The incredulity of corporeal responsibility. When we finally catch them, or one of the boys comes forward and risks being forever being labeled, for lack of a better term, a damaged man, the clergymen look at the world as if only then realizing a very hard truth. The stories in their book are interesting, philosophical, maybe even the best example of moral ideology man has yet come up with, but they're just stories. They're stories written for people who didn't have the sense to bathe. They're stories for people who never learned to read or even draw a picture that represented their own names. They're stories for people who might well have been enslaved in bondage from the moment they're born until the moment they died. They are stories for people who had no hope. They are stories for people who never knew any other forgiveness than that which Jesus provided them. They're just stories, written by people who have been dead for thousands of years. Can't we do better these days? Two thousand years after Mr. Christ took a hell of a beating for us to teach us something, can't we do better than “we're all sinners.”? Can't we admit that we all do wrong? Wrong is different from sin. Wrong is what happens when you hurt others. Sin is… well, sin is what happens when you read the same book too many times and you begin to take it a little too seriously.

I believe in wrong, but I don't believe in sin. I believe that sin is another name for guilt, which lesser, weaker people from an older and less civilized time used to enslave one another. The look on the priest's faces when they realize what they've done is the only proof I'll ever need that I'm right about this. Can they be absolved of sin? Sure. Sin is guilt, and guilt is bullshit. Sin can be as heavy on a person's soul as a ton of lead, but lifted from them by the proper vicar and the proper ceremony as if it weighed no more than a feather. Go thou and sin no more, my son. Those men have done wrong. And absolution of wrong is quite another matter.

And once again I've written something I'm afraid to post.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Free Time

This three-day weekend felt like it lasted about three million years. I don't know what to think of all this bizarre free time I have now that I'm on temporary hiatus from class. This marks the end of the rest that I do get, however. This week I begin class once more, and the pace quickens with class on Saturday and outreach on Sunday. I hope the energy I stored up during this little break will be enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other over the next few weeks. I miss my CSMT friends a little. Not as much as I used to miss my college friends when I was on break. I didn't really accomplish anything, except playing a lot of video games, watching several cheesy movies (and one good one, John Woo's “The Killer”). I suppose vacations like this, sent by whatever God watches over me, aren't meant to be questioned or worried about. Just enjoyed. Beth and I spent lots of time together. She bought me breakfast at the Golden Olympic. We went to the bookstore a few times. We went to Foodstuffs and got salads. We took a drive and walked on the beach and listened to a book on tape about social policy and ethics. I ate Lime Tostitos and drank too many Snapples and Vanilla Pepsi and leftover fried chicken and mac and cheese from Dominick's. This journal isn't meant to just be a boring grocery list of all the things I do, but I suppose once in a while I can indulge myself. I'll try to come up with something profound to say tomorrow. I've rediscovered the joy of watching television. I find myself drawn to several series in a way that really I never did in college. I find myself oddly jealous of people with TiVo. I think it's wisest if I go to bed now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Jeramy Visits

And my vacation is here. My week with Jeramy went by in a blur, and we accomplished much. My back pain went away just long enough for his visit and returned only hours after he left. We took pictures for the new book and we visited Uncle Fun, as well as several other good Chicago and Evanston eating establishments. We even ate sushi one night, and amazingly, it was delicious. We mixed up some aromatic massage oils in decorative bottles we found at the World Market import store and we each bought antique Chinese vanity bottles for Beth and Elizabeth at the Asian antique store that were over 100 years old. I taught him some massage mojo to work on Elizabeth and I managed to get him firmly addicted to both Johnny Cash and a computer game called Stronghold. We watched Matchstick Men, The Passion on the Christ, Wizards, and Conan the Barbarian. We went to Pine Yard, Buffalo Joe's, Maggiano's, Sarkis, The Abbey (and got rather drunk while eating corned beef and cabbage), and ate a breakfast that consisted of 8 eggs, half a loaf of bread, two quarts of OJ and an entire pound of bacon. We went to a place called Hama Matsu and had amazing sushi with sake and a number of other appetizers and delicacies. Yes, that's right, our humble narrator ate raw fish. And furthermore, I thought it was quite tasty.

What health food gurus fail to mention about sushi is that A) it's actually quite spicy and B) you get a little bit of a buzz from it. I was expecting a slimy chewy bland eating experience, and what I got was actually crunchy, sweet/spicy/robust, and very delicious. Even the sake (which the owner of the restaurant included as a GIFT as it was not even on the menu) was pleasantly aromatic and sweet.

We had a great time. And now I am quite tired. Thankfully I don't have school again until the Saturday after next. Amazingly I am almost half done with CSMT.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The Passion of Jim Cavaziel

Happy St. Patty's day. I saw The Passion of the Christ last night. Irritatingly, no one at work wants to talk to me about it and Beth and Jeramy want to talk to each other about it. To the point where they literally shush me when I bring it up. I am left with a boatload of opinions regarding this movie and no one to talk to about them. I know the last thing anyone wants is to read yet another movie review, so I'll try to keep it interesting.

Let's start with the first and most obvious:

Was it a well-made movie? Unquestionably. It was vivid, well-acted (except for Jesus' mother Mary, portrayed in a wooden, vacant way by some unknown actress.), and highly believable based on the touchy intersection of mythological text and historic fact.

Was it Anti-Semitic? You know, going into this movie, I thought: come on, how utterly retarded would Mel Gibson have to be to make something blatantly Anti-Semitic. But walking out, I could not help but admit to a strong sense of finger-pointing. Not exactly at Judaism, not exactly at the Romans or Arabs, not even exactly at the Pharisees (there were dissenting votes among them), but it sure as hell wasn't "Jesus died for our sins..." or any of that nebulous rhetoric. This movie seemed to say instead, "Jesus died because ignorant people who follow defunct religions were paranoid about him starting a revolt so they made an example of him." Not exactly finger pointing at Jews specifically, but this movie gave me the sense that somebody sure as hell was responsible.

Was it Jesus? Hmmm... For the most part it was just the old reliable (and ever since his first film The Thin Red Line, utterly mediocre) James Cavaziel in a robe. There were two times in this movie, however, when I thought he made the leap and brought our notion of Jesus to life. The first was when he was putting together a table in his younger days. The carpenter Jesus is an image we don't often get, but in this case was very effective. The second scene I particularly liked was when he speaks on the cross. Being Catholic, I didn't need to read the subtitles. I had heard the story many times on Good Friday mass, in church school, in confirmation classes. I knew that "Eloi" meant "Father" in Arameic. When Cavaziel spoke this, however, they amplified his voice somehow so it sounded as if the man were right next to you. It sounded very much like a holy voice

"Eloi! Eloi!" he roared, through a face that had been caved in. Why have you forsaken me?

It made Willem DaFoe in The Last Temptation of Christ look like Opie Taylor in an off broadway show of Annie Get Your Gun. Cavaziel was Christ, at least for a few truly awesome moments.

One more brief scene that I liked in particular was after the ascension when we cut to Lucifer, screaming up at the world from the bottom of hell. Though Beth and Jeramy didn't catch it, I noticed that this was a subtle nod toward Dante's Inferno where Lucifer is depicted as trapped half-in, half-out of a river of ice and grasping upward toward heaven. It was only one example of Mel Gibson's superb knowledge of the imagery surrounding Jesus and the Passion.

Finally, the violence. Was it excessive? Well... Yeah. It was. They beat that poor bastard until there was nothing left to beat. On the upside, the depiction of the scourging was an excellent one. Though even I cringed at the gruesome lashing and subsequent flaying, Hollywood finally got it right. To the sparest detail, they made this movie believable for the time period, right down to the Romans shouting "Octo! Novem!" as they lashed Jesus. By the time the movie ended, Cavaziel looked like he had been run over by a riding lawnmower.

So, basically, it was as all the other reviewers predicted. A few good performances, a palpable sense of finger-pointing, a couple of touching moments with our savior, and two hours of Romans beating the living shit out of Jim Cavaziel.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Stress Diet

And with the pop of a Snapple bottle top, I begin the final day of this extended excursion into hell. Today is the two-finals payoff stanza to a cosmically sardonic poem of sleep-weary eyes, clenching stomachs, and aching backs. I wanted to die a few times this week. Special thanks to Baxter Labs, the pharmaceutical producers of Vioxx, my bridge between painful functionality and twisted pretzel-like back spasms. Lift with your knees, kids. And to Starbucks, producer of fine, prepackaged turkey sandwiches which have constituted roughly 95% of my diet for the past two weeks.

(later)

Halfway there. Passed the morning test. Hepped up on strong Starbucks iced tea with, oh, about 8 tablespoons of sugar added. Forgot to bring potluck food. Need to go back out in the cold. Losing the ability to form coherent thoughts. Coasting. Picking days for student clinic. It's easier to play music and shut out their happy laughing voices. I just want to sleep.

(later)

And it's finally over. And I'm still alive.

And as you walk through death's dark veil,
The cannon's thunder can't prevail,
And those who hunt me down will fail,
And you will be my ain true love.
-You will be my ain true love, Allison Krauss.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Yank

Well, I managed to yank the hell out of one of my middle back muscles today, landing me in nearly-crippling pain. Fortunately, I took a Vioxx and had one of my instructors work on me for about a half hour. I wasn't sure that massage would help me, but it took most of the edge off of the soreness and quieted the twisting muscle spasms. The guy that worked on me was actually the same guy that interviewed me for entrance to the school.

It occurred to me that one of the best parts about this school is that literally every person who is associated with the school has been through the program. From the administrators and clinic directors right down to the receptionists and financial aid people. Every instructor, every assistant, every supervisor... All massage therapists. You can learn from literally everyone at that school, and if you like them, you can usually have them work on you in clinic. That's a pretty ingenius model for a school environment.

This week is half over, thank god.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Tasting Gangrene

Monday, March 08, 2004

The $1 AK-47

Olivia Goldsmith, the author who wrote The First Wives Club, died last month during a surgical facelift. She was known via her writing for satire of beauty and youth-fixated society. In other news, philosophers and religious pundits have come to a concrete conclusion: God has a twisted sense of humor.

I've found myself reading a lot about Iraq lately. Anything I can get my hands on regarding the subject. Some of it is pretty incredible stuff. My favorite are the excerpts from troop letters home. Apparently, in Baghdad you can buy an AK-47 with magazines and ammunition for $1. (Source: Esquire, March 2004)

One dollar.

At those prices, equipping twenty men for a Holy Jihad is cheaper than taking them to Taco Bell. A war-worthy assault rifle that costs less than the grocery-store sized Snickers bar. That's why we can't stop these damned terrorists. The only thing they have enough money to buy is cheap soviet surplus guns. We're trying to pitch capitalism to them, and our sales pitch sounds something like this:

BMW - only $43,000
A two year contract with Verizon cellular - very reasonable $1200
A Dell home computer - a steal praise Allah for $599 after mail-in rebate.
Mac iPod - fabulous accessory for every Muslim hip cat, $299.
A night at the movies for a family of four to see Finding Nemo - $32 (with popcorn - $52)
Cable TV - very affordable $29 a month.
A Happy Meal from McDonald's - $3.99 +tax.
An AK-47, ready to stamp out the infidel, ammunition included - $1.

I mean honestly, come on. Even if you don't take into account the insane religion these people cling to, they are forced at every turn to reject capitalism.

So let's say you're an Iraqi that makes $1 a day at your job. There are two things you can do with this bounty. First, you could buy yourself a handful of camel dung to eat (split eleven ways since all you can afford is adder-skin condoms and your invalid elder relatives live with you). Or second, you can buy a hardcore assault weapon and start taking shots at whoever is driving down the street in the new C-series Benz.

There was another story in the Washington post about a woman who gave birth to an infant in respiratory distress. Lacking a mechanical incubator or respirator, the physician on duty at the hospital gave the woman a hand-operated breathing pump that she was to squeeze in and out (the kind you see on Rescue 911) to keep the baby boy breathing. Around 4 AM the next morning, the woman's arms gave out and she was forced to sit by, arms unable to pump anymore, and watch her newborn son suffocate. (Source: Washington Post, March 5, 2004)

How much does an incubator cost? I'm not even talking about the nice new ones that we use in the States, I'm talking about one of the old-time 1940's baby in the nursery type deals. How much could one of those possibly cost to make? $50? And infants are dying for the lack of them. They can't come up with $5 to pay someone else to pump a hand-powered ventilator. And at the bottom of this abyss, somewhere, is a $1 AK-47.

These people don't need a new constitution, they need something to lose.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Homeless guy picture, fixing camera

Almost a week for this update. The weather has gone from awful to beautiful to rainy to cold, to awful than back to okay and now it's snowing again. All in the course of a week. Numerous L rides, a paper done, two tests, signup frenzy to complete my requirements. Mayhem at work with people out sick, people out for surgery, and people out for the death's of close family members.

My digital camera has not worked in days. Since last week when it quit taking pictures of the homeless guy, it has shown no signs of life. Fresh batteries, expensive little lithium ones, didn't help, nor did every monkeylike fiddle/cuff/smack I tried. By this point, I'm beginning to mildly panic. A birthday that I volunteered to be the photographer for is coming up Sunday, and Jeramy is coming to visit on the 14th. Aside from just wanting to take some pics of us hanging out, we had planned to take pictures for the Journey of the Tallish Ten. I have been waiting to release the book literally for months in order to get these pictures. So yeah, camera failure at the 11th hour was not something that I had any sort of contingency plan for.


The silent thing sat staring at me like a corpse, and I decided that there were three options open to me.

First, I could buy a new camera. This was not really an option at all since I can't afford it. The second was to send it in for repairs. My warranty had expired over a year ago, and the ominous language on the Kodak website suggested it was going to be preposterously expensive. $125-$175, depending on the extensiveness of the repair, plus $48 shipping and handling. Or they offered to trade my 4.1 Megapixel camera in for a newer 3.1 MP model. Hating the world, I actually considered this briefly. However, the reason I bought this particular model to begin with was that it was 4.1 MP at a reasonable price, which is really necessary considering the applications I use my photos for.

The third option was to crack the case myself and tinker around with it. This seemed to me like a pretty dicey proposition, so I ruefully prepared myself for sending my camera off to Sheboygan, or wherever the hell the camera infirmary was. I looked it over a final time, and noticed a small bulge in the casing. One edge had pooched out perhaps half a millimeter. I was thinking that this might be just poorly-assembled pieces, but out of curiosity, I poked the tip of a cheapo $0.99 pocketknife under the little edge. I heard an audible snap, and then something wonderful: the soft mechanical whirr of the Ekantar lens deploying.

Like Lazarus of old, my digital camera was risen from the dead. Not wishing to make the same mistake as the Pharisees, I immediately danced a joyful little resurrection dance accompanied by a song I made up just for the occasion. It went something like this:

I fixed my caaaam-ra!
I fixed my caaaam-ra!
And now it wur-urks!
And now it wur-urks!

(Dance solo interlude)

I fixed my caaaam-ra!
I fixed my caaaam-ra!
And now it wur-urks!
And now it wur-urks!

I know. I'm a gigantic dork. But hey, at least my digital camera still works. Those things cost a fortune when they were new. When I said "reasonable", I meant "under $600."

So anyway, here's the picture of the homeless guy that I took.



At the sushi restaurant tonight, in a state of total frustration, McDermott asked the girls if they knew the names of any of the nine planets. Libby and Caron guessed the moon. Cindy actually guessed....... Comet. Wasn't there a planet named Comet? Dumbfounded, McDermott, Taylor, and I assured her that there was.

- American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Don't be a Foo

My Special Populations instructor just mentioned to us, five minutes after handing in the paper, that she expected correct citations of sources. Well isn't that some happy shit? I listed my sources, but sadly I didn't cite my paraphrased info. The paper instructions said it that it was acceptable to hand write the damn thing. But somehow they expect ASA collegiate citation. Ugh. I need a break from this in a big way.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I Hate Cellphone Salesmen

(slam dunk)

And.... so much for February.

Well, admittedly, it was a rough month, but it's one more closer to being finished with school. I talked to several people today that I haven't spoken to in months. All in the space of about three hours all three of them IM'd me. Sadly, the Oscars were vastly overhyped. Though I did enjoy the performance of the two songs from Cold Mountain which I had never heard and which were really quite beautiful. I threw together a four pager for Special Populations in about an hour. That's a little rusty for me. I used to be able to put together a 15-20 pager in about two or three hours back in school, and then often very drunk at the time.

I found a great little entry that I had written a long time ago when I went shopping in the Lincolnwood mall (middle america oozes from every rafter of this place). Here goes:

I hate cellphone salesmen. If society must tolerate them, I think they should be forced to live in caravans on the edge of town like modern carnies.

They stand in their flashing, honking, beeping booths, usually right out in the middle of a mall or store where you can't easily get around them. From their scuzzy high-tech platform they shout and accost innocent passers-by, encouraging them to lock themselves into oppressive, ironclad contracts whereby your mobile phone may cost as much (and I am not making this up) as a two year lease on a Hyundai Accent.

If you make the mistake of looking at them, they will hollar at the top of their lungs to the point where other random mall shoppers will nudge you and nod toward the cell phone booth. God forbid you have a woman on your arm. It will become just like an old black and white movie about the dangers of carnivals.

"Hey there, man, better keep an eye on your pretty girl, I might steal her away!"

"Hey there, minimum wage cretin," I say softly to myself, "Better watch your skull or I might cave it in against the concrete floor."

But you can never say anything like this, of course, because then everyone around you suddenly thinks that you're the asshole. And even then, the cell phone carnies will try to make you a deal wherein they will let you beat the living shit out of one of them if you agree to sign a two year contract. And somehow, inevitably, the lovely woman on your arm can't resist "just seeing what they're offering." Like the carnival talkers of the 30's, these charlatans are treated, if nothing else, to a close up conversation with a woman who is severely out of their league. There is something about those gruesome, acne afflicted, vultures that is irresistible to women. My guess is hair-care products. These scrawny pukes slather enough gunk on their inky, ratlike hair to equip an entire Jiffy Lube. Just once I would love to lean in, as though to speak confidentially, and set one of their awful red polo shirts on fire. As they flailed around with flames crisping their bad goatees and oh-so-suave sideburns, I would shout gleefully at them:

"Hey man, would you like some water? How about some water, we've got a special deal today!! Just think of how handy it would be to have some water right now... with our flexible water plan you can have water anytime you need it. Nights, weekends, ANYTIME! Just sign here for our two or four year payment plans!"