Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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   rooster tail execution
Saturday, January 6 2001

Last night I discovered that it is possible to sleep while under the influence of Adderall. It's an interestingly shallow sort of sleep, sort of tantric in the way it can be experienced and prolonged. The light of morning left a strong phosphorous imprint in my eyes even after I ducked back under my covers, which the remaining Adderall in my system converted into glowing tubes of neon on the inside of my eyelids. It was completely unexpected and beautiful.
I went on a walk around the neighborhood to the east, possibly in an effort to check the alleys for free stuff, but really it was mostly to enjoy another beautiful morning. I looked down at my scuffed brown leather shoes, dirty black pants and then, seeing my reflection in a shop window, all the rooster tails describing parabolas over the back of my head. I realized I looked like a fucking bum. So back at my house I took out my scissors and started chopping at my hair. Most of the work was done without a mirror, feeling for the longest pieces and snipping them short with my head stuck off the balcony. This sort of randomly thorough approach seems to get the best results for me. But I'm evidently past the age where I get to look younger every time I give myself a haircut. For the record: I have never had my hair cut professionally in my entire life. Yes, I'm over 30 years old, own a home and am a career professional. It's like Fernando's improbable virginity; it's an issue of control.
John's sister Maria was visiting this afternoon, and when she saw that Staying Alive was a "Movies that Rock" on VH1, she made us all suffer through it. I'd never seen it and expected it to be bad, but nothing anywhere near as horrible as it actually was. Part of its problem was that the fashion of that period was so extreme and so severely at odds with my biologically-dictated standards that it caused me a disturbing sensory dissonance. How about that eye shadow? How about the colors on those spandex body suits? Argh! But the problems with Staying Alive ran even deeper than bad style. The choreography, which could have been spectacular in any age, was flat and repetitive. Still, Maria was loving it. She kept saying, "oh, you just have to see the climax, it's so good!" And then we saw the climax and it was exactly as bad as everything else. "But wait," said Maria, "now you have to see the part where John Travolta says he just wants to strut!" And then we saw John Travolta strutting down the street and it was too horrible even to be funny. Throughout the rest of our time together today, Maria would periodically crouch down low with her feet spread wide, swiveling her hips around in the only move anyone ever seemed to make throughout that whole horrible movie. Today seemed to be one of Maria's good days, and she was full of all kinds of comic spunk.
In the afternoon, I rode with John, Chun and Maria to a mall in Century City to see a matinee of the movie Traffic. But it was all sold out and we accomplished nothing there. At least nobody was making comments about my haircut. Maria, if she had a comment to make, would have surely made one.
We ended up driving to Westwood, buying tickets at another theatre for the 6:15 showing of Traffic and then found ways to waste time in a nearby Borders bookstore. I drank some sort of big nasty Mocha drink and leafed through a super glossy fashion magazine, reading a fluffy low-calorie article about virtual reality and rave culture. I'm terribly spoiled on the good writing of the few websites I visit.
So then, as we'd been instructed, we showed up at the theatre 45 minutes early. Actually, we came a whole hour early and sat there in the lobby in front of the video game machines saying "my this is interesting" to one another. For a few minutes there I sat there staring listlessly off into space, entertained by strange psychological effects from all the alcohol and Adderall I'd had the night before.
Chun and the ever-bored Maria decided to go off on a fish taco run to a nearby Rubios while John played a Kung-Fu video game and I continued with my staring off into space. We were joined by a random friendly couple, the handsome black male half of which stood beside John watching his endless game. Meanwhile the prematurely aged white female half sat next to me reading a newspaper. Eventually I had to get up and piss.
But when I came out of the bathroom, there was no John anywhere. One of the theatre staff people was demanding my ticket, but of course in our folly we'd put them all in the care of Chun.
I found John outside waiting in line, but there was no sign of Maria or Chun, so we had to do something immediately. John decided to run across the five lanes of traffic and find the girls while I would hold place in line, letting people slip past me just outside the door.
Finally we had the tickets and we had Chun (Maria was off somewhere trying to conceal fish tacos so they could be effectively smuggled into the movie). We found ourselves herded with many dozens of other people, most of them middle-aged, into a hallway outside the actual theatre screen room. We weren't going to be allowed into that room until a certain time had come to pass, so there we all were, shoulder to shoulder with all these anonymous strangers. At least John and I had a wall to lean against. Every now and then somebody would try to make way through the throng; John called these people "sliders."
To my left, a tall attractive lesbian girl (I say this because she was holding hands with another girl who resembled Leonardo DiCaprio) kept looking around for her friend, and as she repeatedly got up on her toes and swiveled to and fro she seemed to be making a special effort to grind her breasts into me. Far be it from me to complain.
We managed to secure a place near the back center of the theatre. After devouring our tacos and watching many previews of coming attractions, the movie finally started rolling.

Traffic and the War on Drugs

Okay, by now anyone with any sense already knows the War on Drugs is a catastrophic failure. If you need a movie to tell you this, chances are it's not going to convince you either. But floating on the ocean of common sense about drugs is an oily film of something that can only be called political theatre, and it's the paradigm of this theatre that is the stage for all politically-acceptable discourse about drugs in America. Any politician who discusses drugs from any other perspective is taking an enormous risk, especially if he has any skeletons of drug use in his closet. Bill Clinton was mired like a La Brea Tar Pit Mastodon in the oily film of conventional drug discourse because any divergence from its orthodoxy could be effectively critiqued with non-sequitur allusions to his having "never inhaled." And as our political culture goes, so unfortunately does the rest of our culture. Hollywood, despite its common use of drug culture as a backdrop and drugs and their paraphernalia as props, has never seriously called into question the absolutist morality that casts the forces of drugs as evil and distinct from the forces of law and righteousness. This movie, Traffic, is the first important Hollywood film to show drugs to be an integral part of the American economy and an inextricable feature of its private life. Attempts to suppress drugs, as good-intentioned as they might be, are shown to be inherently futile, a terribly wasteful misallocation of resources resulting in all manner of collateral damage throughout society. The thesis of Traffic, if there is one (and that's not entirely clear, since it has more the flavor of a documentary) seems to be one of "sure, drugs are bad, but what do you want to do about it, kill a lot of people?"
One of the unexpectedly fun things about this movie is how its points are made by sudden monologues unexpectedly delivered by minor characters. It's a campy technique, the sort of thing you might expect more from the Rocky Horror Picture Show than from a hip modern movie. There are at least two of these, and one of them is made by a mid-level drug distributor being interrogated by a couple of hilarious DEA agents. It's such gratuitous point-making that it actually has to be balanced by snarky comments made by the agents. "What, you think you're on Larry King?"
That said, though, the film definitely has its weak elements. For starters, I think the lavish use of filters for setting off the three different geographic zones was excessive. Perhaps if I had actually been on drugs myself I would have thought these were more interesting and perhaps even helpful. I'd probably enjoy watching a whole movie done in the style of the Tijuana footage if it came with a suitably trance-inducing soundtrack.
Then there was the way drugs themselves were depicted, which wasn't fundamentally different from the way this is usually done in conventional movies. Drugs are not portrayed as the private recreations, rewards, vices and sacraments we all known and love; they are the bad old drugs we learned about in health class and Reefer Madness, the ones that inevitably lead to the emergency room, the jail cell and turning tricks in the gutter. I took special note of that one scene gratuitously thrown in to depict every upper class white father's nightmare, the angelic white daughter getting some love made to her by a big black drug dealer. As we were leaving the movie, John mentioned his discomfort with that scene and I sardonically suggested that no payment was enough for slavery, adding "This one is for Kunta Kinteh!"
But the worst of all things wrong with this movie was the scene where the harried Drug Czar, having just run around all through the worst neighborhoods of Washington, DC looking for his drug addict daughter, gives a speech at your standard Washington press conference. It's a typical drug war speech, with all the usual lifeless buzzwords and meaningless clichés. But then you see it coming, a meta-cliché as inevitable as the sunrise, the big moment of personal-redemption and being true to one's self, Hollywood-style. Come on, please, no! But if this is what it takes to get boneheaded grannies in Indiana to realize that the drug war is a waste of the money that could be going into Medicare, then I'm all for it.
On the ride home, the new house remix of that Boston song "Long Time" was on the radio and Maria said, "I don't normally take a lot of drugs or anything, but something about watching drug movies, even movies with a strongly anti-drug message, makes me want to take drugs!"

In the evening after the movie, John, Chun and I hung out for awhile in the living room. There was no music, no television, just a pot of green tea. We'd talk now and then and then say nothing for long periods. I suppose I should have left them alone to do whatever they like to do together, but I didn't. Eventually they headed upstairs. It was one of those Saturdays that ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

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