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March 23, 1997, Sunday

Surreal thing to say today: I am a bird and I do not fly and you are a fly and you do not die.

I'm pissed off. Here I am at UVA's Cocke Hall as usual on a Sunday, updating the weekend's musings. But wouldn't you know, the Macs no longer play audio CDs. The incompetent buffoons who maintain this lab have apparently decided that overhearing the conversations of idiotic sorority girls is part of the price one pays to use a high quality internet-equipped Power Macintosh. But again the result of their cramping of my style is just more congestion in their already overburdened local network and in their Internet gateways. You see, I still listen to music. But now I have to get it over the network. I sent the crack net management team some email explaining their stupidity to them. Right now I'm listening to some vaguely cheesy heavy metal RealAudio files. I would have preferred to listen to one of my Bad Religion CDs.

By the way, I have to make a point of not going anywhere near Comet when I want to get any work done. Today I was simply walking up University past Comet and I came upon Jim Hoff the Webmaster and Stephan out in front taking a cigar break. The Webmaster pulled me into his office and spent forever unsuccessfully trying to find me an HTML trick he'd just discovered on someone else's page. Every time I go into Comet, someone invariably wants me to answer the phone while they take a cigarette break or do other annoying things that I don't normally even have to do when I'm there on the clock. Life is very very hard, I tell you.

Once I was in New York State with less than fifty cents in my pocket, but I hitch-hiked home just fine.
I had a dollar and some change in my wallet, I knew I had no food back at my house and on Sunday the bank is closed and I have no bank card. I've been in worse situations plenty of times. I think I've made it through a week of fully dissolute living in Oberlin with only five dollars actually being spent. Once I was in New York State with less than fifty cents in my pocket, but I hitch-hiked home just fine. We Americans are capable of surviving far more misery than our continual comfort prepares us for. In Charlottesville, of course, I have many things going for me, but most of these carry their own qualifications. I have a lot of friends, and though the majority of them are fairly generous, most of them are also young and poor. I have housemates who keep a refrigerator full of food, but today none of it was mine and I feel guilty when I tax them too heavily (even though I never object to them taxing me). I have a car and parents who keep a well-stocked ("magic") refrigerator within fifty miles, but today my Dodge Dart only had enough gas in the tank for driving around within Charlottesville.

I was mildly hungry as I sat in the warm sun in front of Higer Grounds chatting with tall & blonde Katherine (okay, I know that's not helpful since all Katherines in Charlottesville are tall and blonde) and her dog Deeohji. She suggested we go to Café Europa and get some small food items. I liked the idea, because of late I have become a fancier of Café Europa's lemon-poppy seed muffins, which are the closest thing to legalized opium in all of Charlottesville. (By contrast, the lemon-poppy seed muffins at Espresso Corner hold the notoriety of being Central Virginia's food product whose flavour most resembles bathroom cleaning fluid.) But when we checked out the baked goods, we saw that all the muffins had been purchased already. So Katherine suggested we get some sort of Greek entré. Since she was clear on the fact that she'd have to pay for most of it, I said okay. What we got was good and oily, but it should have come with a greater bread-to-hummus ratio.

While we ate, Katherine told me of her job at a Country Club in Keswick (about ten miles to the east). Some of her coworkers there are French guys who have been known to swing by Peidmont Community College in a pathetic attempt to find dates. She also told me that there is a possibility of an apartment being open behind the one that her and a subgroup of Dynashack residents (Elizabeth, John, Ches and others) are renting across Wertland Street next year. I have been a little apprehensive about my housing prospects after the Dynashack closes down in late June. A new place conveniently across Wertland would be perfect. I could share the place with Monster Boy.

Returning to the Dynashack, I found Cecelia the Brazilian Girl and Monster Boy out on the front porch blaring Sex Pistols from a boom box. They had spent the night at my house and never left.

We hung out on the front porch for awhile (though the air was just a little too cold as it often is this time of year). Eventually, the boy Jesse drove up with his father's vehicle. In his company were Leticia the Brazilian Girl and Karen the German Girl.

Monster Boy had plans to drive down to Williamsburg (in coastal Southeast Virginia) today, and apparently Karen and Cecelia had plans to join him. But when Monster Boy checked into the situation, he was reminded that the place he intended to stay (a friend's house) was very small. So in the end, he left by himself, ever-vigilent of his Camaro's engine temperature light. His car is leaking cooling fluid these days.

I ended up going with those remaining to Jesse's house to the north of the middle section of Jefferson Park Avenue. We watched the tail end of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life on cable. As usual when I watch Monty Python, I laughed my head off. Then we hung out in Jesse's attic room listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's Murder Ballads (check that link out if you get a chance Jessika). I hadn't heard that since the Fall, when Jessika played it incessantly.

Motivation was low. I felt incapable of initiating anything. The number of times that I actually initiate anything greater among my friends than "let's resume walking" is rather small. I normally just let the others come up with ideas and I go along (within reason). Today was typical of this spirit. Cecelia decided we should rent a movie and then watch it somewhere. Jesse was sleepy and burnt out, if you know what I mean, so his part in the fun was minimal. He simply dropped us off at the Dynashack.

I drove those remaining in my company (the goth foreign girl contingent) up to Blockbuster on 29 North. There Cecelia selected two animated movies: Alchemist of the Surreal and Nightmare Before Christmas. Then we went to the Brazilian Girls' house to drop Leticia off. Being of school age, she had to be home by 9pm. We went to find Hapless Mike, the "boy next door." He decided to join us in our movie watching tonight. Since he was bringing his own car, I said he could bring his dingoesque dog, Denver, as well. He and Cecelia drove in his car and Karen and I rode in mine.

At the Dynashack, I drank four ounces of tussin DM I'd "obtained" earlier in the evening. It was a rather thick and throat numbing concoction of the stuff, containing Pseudoephedrine.

The first movie we watched was Alchemist of the Surreal, a movie by the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. It was... COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED. The movie had almost no dialogue, and the soundtrack was stark and demented. But the animation...

Chaos and destruction would ensue as metal tools carved and diced fruit and vegetables.
It began with two dimentional stop-action animations of random objects arranged to resemble human face profiles. At the beginning one face contained organic objects: fruit and vegetables, while the other face contained man-made metal objects. They would come marching at each other across a wooden table, snapping their mouths, then one would eat the other. Chaos and destruction would ensue as metal tools carved and diced fruit and vegetables. Out of such disorder a larger, more chaotic human would emerge, and then vomit out a mass that would re-assemble into another human. This process continued on for awhile until the objects had been ground down into clay. Then came a series of stop-action interactions between clay humans.

One was a very evocative sex scene. A man and woman of clay faced each other across a table, held hands, started kissing, and then melted chaotically into each other all over the table, with occasional recognizable forms (breasts, hands, and enraptured face) emerging from the mess. Then the blob broke apart and the lovers emerged and resumed their places at either end of the table. Remaining was a small amorphous blob that tried to interact with both, but was rejected. I took this to mean that it represented ejaculate.

There was then a long scene involving two busts facing each other, producing various objects from their mouths. These objects would interact in various heirarchies (much like the old "paper, scissor, rock" hierarchies).

The rest of the movie featured short bits of similar weirdness. There were some cel animations that reminded me of the things I've seen while delerious with fever. There was a violent little puppet show involving a Guinea Pig. There was a snappy documentary of a church built by a man, his wife and two kids. It was decorated with the skeletons of 70,000 people, mostly victims of the plague in the mid 1300s. There were also parts that weren't so good: a mediocre animation of some old Leonardo da Vinci drawings and a disjointed torture scenario from the Spanish Inquisition.

But on the whole it was an amazing film. I wondered why I had never heard of it before. None of my housemates had ever heard of it either, and a group of them gathered in awe to watch. That such a darkly ingeniously absurdly weird film could come out of a repressive communist country made me feel better about my species.

When the film was over, Cecelia wanted to go get some pasta to cook in the Dynashack kitchen. But she was sidetracked by a spectacle in the heavens. The Moon, which must now be in Libra, had, creeping across it, the shadow of my home planet, Earth. Everyone in the Dynashack soon was out in the front yard, staring at it. We were amazed by how many people had been in our house: me, Cecelia, Hapless Mike, Karen the German Girl, Elizabeth, Penley, John, Ches, John's two friends Veronica and some other girl, Andrew, perhaps others. Eventually, Cecelia produced a traffic flare and further celebrated the weirdness by lighting it and setting it up as a brightly-glowing tussin-coloured obstacle in the middle of Wertland Street. It was a little too cold to just "hang out," so I went inside and began watching Alchemist of the Surreal a second time. The tussin had started to make me feel very comfortable with my place in the world.

When I was a kid I used to wonder why in the movies the boys always struggled so much to please certain girls.
Then we watched Nightmare Before Christmas. This movie was similar to the first movie in that it involved sophisticated stop-action animation techniques. But its budget was much bigger (it's a Disney production), so it couldn't be nearly as weird. Had it not been a musical with typically American (overbearingly-cheesy) "numbers" in it, I would have liked it significantly more. The animation was, I have to say, astounding and looked as though it took advantage of powerful computer software. I couldn't get over how naturally things moved, even though everything was clearly man-made: puppets, painted backdrops, etc. My fascination with the effects made up for my tussin-induced inability to keep track of the plot. As far as I could tell it was about the adventures of a very skinny guy named Jack Skellington. He was from a creepy town where it is always Halloween. Jack ends up going to another town where it is always Christmas. While there he decides to take over the role of Santa Clause. A variety of sub plots lead into and spin off of this main theme. There's even a Frankenstein-monster girl who manages somehow to be a romantic interest of Jack. But don't get your hopes up for puppet sex scenes; this is a children's film. When I was a kid I used to wonder why in the movies the boys always struggled so much to please certain girls. I also used to wonder why all rock and roll songs had to include a guitar solo. I still wonder about those rock and roll songs.

I was struck by something besides the animation in these two films. What I noted was an appreciation for "the dark side." Even in the Disney film, Nightmare Before Christmas, this appreciation went beyond simple touch-stone cultural reference. It placed a fascination for death, disorder, ruins and the macabre in a position of equal validity to the goody-two-shoe niceness that we have rammed down our throats in the schools and that is best exemplified in Nightmare Before Christmas by the town where it is always Christmas. I could suddenly understand why Christian Fundamentalists are at times troubled by Disney.

We watched Alchemist of the Surreal yet again. This time I was stoned on marijuana and on tussin. Let me just say one thing: ""

I was so stoned at this point that I had great difficulty starting and finishing paragraphs and even sentences. But the tussin made me want to talk. So I participated in a sort of "interview" with Cecelia in which I discussed the powers and failings of Satan and God. I said that God had so much power that he could place his hand outside the category of "everything." I said he could do this by casting a spell and ZAP --all the dictionaries would change such that the word "everything" would explicitly exclude God's hand in its definition. This made me think some about the power of dictionary authors. A man who writes a dictionary has a lot of power when you consider that he can alter what is meant when words are spoken or written. Is that why I wrote the Big Fun Glossary?

Karen and Cecelia slept in the living room, Hapless Mike returned home, and I slept in my room. The moment I was alone, my mind started filling with paranoid thoughts. Among other things I started feeling like I had badly mistreated to Deya.

Read some more tales of tussin.

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