Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BIHKAL: 1145 Indiana (Part 1)

Due to a personal request, I am bringing the BIHKAL series out of retirement for another installment. You can thank one Jon B. for this. This week, on Bathrooms I Have Known and Loathed: Avalanches of water that smell like crap! Heating appliances fueled by the rage of Satan! Dangerous experiments with nail polish remover! Absentee landlords! ...And so much more!

For 4 of the 6 years I spent at the University of Kansas, I lived in a charming 3 story plus basement shithole at 1145 Indiana St. This lovely little piece of hell was painstakingly maintained by Eck Real Estate Management. Over the course of my stay, I rented the entire first floor. The apartment was spacious, measuring in at a formidable 1300 square feet. Of these 1300, approximately 4 were allocated to the one and only bathroom. The bathroom was in extremely ill repair, but featured a (mostly) working electric space heater mounted in the wall. The heater was, essentially the inside of a giant toaster (about the size of the bathroom) mounted behind a flimsy metal grate. At some prior point in its lifetime, it had produced enough heat to burn part way through a facing cabinet door, scorch the linoleum in front of it, and burn the hair off of my legs while attempting use the toilet (hint from my roommate: "Just don't pull your pants all the way down."). At some point, I developed the following musical description of the evil beast.

(sung gleefully to an unidentified melody vaguely resembling the theme song to "Denver the Last Dinosaur")

Thermador, Thermador,
Heats the bathroom and so much more!
Thermador, Thermador,
Leaves a brown spot on the floor!

One evening, my roommate Andrew came home from spray painting stuff (a strangely regular occurrence) and we set out to the local pharmacy to purchase materials that would remove BRIGHT METALLIC SILVER paint from flesh. Instead of these materials, we came home with a bar of lava soap, a jar of acetone, and (at least on the part of Andrew) an uncontrollable desire to burn the goddamn house down. The acetone came in one of those crappy little tubs with the sponge in the top that you stick your fingers through to help remove the nail polish (don't ask me how I know this, but I do). Unfortunately, my roommate's giant silver hand wouldn't fit through the wee, finger-sized hole, so he removed the sponge and then commenced maniacal scrubbing. I was making a tasty meal of microwaved hot dogs and crap when I heard: "Justin, check this out!" I went into the bathroom to find the heating beast glowing ominously. The light reflecting off of Andrew's hand made eerie patterns on the walls. In this hand, he clutched a pink sponge with a finger-sized hole in it. He turned toward the thermador, and flicked the sponge.

At this point, I'm pretty sure I lost consciousness for about 3-5 seconds, but I do remember seeing a GIANT FIREBALL shoot out of the wall and rise to the ceiling, leaving behind the smell of burnt hair. When my pulse resumed, I saw Andrew standing in the middle of the tiny bathroom with a look of mixed childlike wonder and terror that seemed to say, "I probably shouldn't have done that." He turned to me and said, "I probably shouldn't have done that..." thus ending the first of many events in the 1145 Indiana St. bathroom that have made me reassess the value and purpose of my life. More to follow...

Friday, March 02, 2007

How Not to Write an Introduction to an Academic Paper

In the course of my academic life at an undisclosed institution in Canada, I stumbled across the following discarded paper. I'm going to reproduce it in its entirety. On a related note, if this paper belongs to you and you would like it removed, please let me know. Also, please come by my office for a brief lesson on academic writing. My comments are in the full post.

For some reason (as Amy has noted), people seem to teach Canadian highschoolers to begin their papers with amusing anecdotes or sweepingly ridiculous statements, thus ensuring that Canadians will continue to not be taken seriously. From what I can tell, this is either a paper about swearing or the Chinese language.

First, let's talk about the obvious. I've written some pretty ridiculous papers during my 6 year stint as an undergraduate in English and computer science, but I've never started a paper in quite such a...striking...fashion. Moving right along, what's with that initial semi-colon (for some reason this bothered Amy more than anything else)?. I enjoy the author's assertion that "globalization" and "economic union" are fancy words. After this, we move directly into the land of the hideously mixed metaphors: "...transcends all of the boundaries chaining modern society to the past: culture, economic status, profession, religion, nationality...." Wow. That's one fancy-ass boundary you've got there. It can even chain things together! I only point this out because it's exactly the opposite function from that which a typical boundary serves. Also, how about that impressive list of boundaries? Just to be clear, we're still talking about "Yo bitch," right? The sentence continues, via a deft comma splice, to present one of the most startlingly vivid and unnecessary similes I have ever encountered. We are then treated to a variety of meanings for the word "fuck." Maybe this is just my opinion, but it takes an incredible mastery of "tone of voice" to convey "the act of making love" with the word "fuck." If anyone can figure out how exactly how this is done, please drop me a line. And then this interminable sentence ends with the most fabulously logical conclusion I have ever heard: "I guess that makes swearing is a lot like Chinese." Q.E.D. folks. Were I grading this paper, it would be extremely hard to refrain from scrawling, "I guess that makes your paper a lot like a pile of flaming poo!" right next to that line. Finally, we have, "Prepare yourself for extensive linguistic training." Yes sensei! Actually, wait a minute, sensei. What sort of linguistic training is going to happen here? Maybe how to (in one short page) violate virtually every rule of English grammar and composition? How to confuse your reader so badly that by the (sadly unavailable) second page of your essay he or she has no idea whether you're going to discuss slang, swearing, Chinese, or the state of solid dairy products in the sweet Canadian summertime? As a final note, look at the upper-left hand side of the page. Apparently we're already 10 pages in! Amy's hypothesis: this is actually the begining of a PhD thesis, after the associated of front matter: table of contents, acknowledgements, etc. *shiver*

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Life in the Wellington Cthulhu Cult

Here's a little gem that I've been sitting on since my trip home for winter break.
Deep in the underbelly of south central Kansas lies a little village named Wellington. Wellington is populated almost entirely with the psychotic religious, the morbidly obese, the mentally challenged, and the vagrant elderly. It should be noted that in south central Kansas there is a non-trivial intersection amongst these groups. I got the joy of spending 1 hour in the Wellington Wal-Mart waiting for my flat tire to be fixed. Why don't you take it somewhere else, you ask? Because, like many small towns with a Wal-Mart, there is nowhere else. As a result I got to spend about 45 minutes at ground zero for what my sister affectionately refers to as the "mutard invasion." After being rescued by my sister, we drove around Wellington searching for the particular piece of small town Americana that is "the Screamin' Jesus." A little explanation is probably due here. Having already exhausted their store of respectable, recognized churches (and I'm even including the Assemblies of God in this list), Wellington decided to start making up their own. One of these is the "Joy Fellowship Church." It occupies a rickety multi-story house behind an auto repair shack's parking lot. I can only assume that the Joy Fellowship Church is devoted to the worship of Lovecraftian elder gods, given its quaint decoration. You see, someone has decided to hang a giant painting of Jesus on the side of the church. It's visible from the highway, and it's been painted by someone who's never seen an actual human being! Without further ado, here it is:

Ia! Ia! Shub-Nigurrath! The goat with a thousand young! There's something very scary about the eyes and mouth of Jesus (which is not something I thought I would ever have to say in my entire life...thank you Joy Fellowship). I don't know if it comes through in the picture, but they've used an incredibly black shade of black for Jesus' pupils and gaping maw, resulting in the distinct feeling that behind his malformed mask, Jesus is a cackling void of absolute vacuity. Maybe that's what they were going for. It's worth pointing out that the face in the photo is at least 15 feet tall.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

BIHKAL: John's Williamsburg Practice Space

I just returned to Toronto after spending about a week with John in New York making music. Said music was produced largely in a dank basement hole in the charming part of New York known as Williamsburg. In an exciting first for the BIHKAL series, I have photo documentation!

After finding the building, opening the front door, descending a frightening set of stairs into a Silence of the Lambs-esque basement, we find the following hallway:

What could be lurking at the top of that wee ladder? A linen closet? Surely, dear reader, you know better than that. Let's open the door (which you'll note is already slightly ajar) and see what lurks behind. It's...

A toilet!? Yes. This is the first (and I sincerely pray) only bathroom I have ever encountered that requires mounting. Also, note the size of the tiny little poop deck: approximately 2.5 by 3 feet. Comfy. Let's take a closer look:

The first thing of note is the electric meter, thoughtfully installed so that it can be easily monitored from the throne. It's tastefully framed by two roughly hewn pieces of plywood. Next, note the sink at the upper left of the picture. The sink crowds the toilet leaving two options: sit down or perform the acrobatic half-in half-out maneuver illustrated below by a man who is not John:

A close examination of the inconvenient sink reveals some unsavory looking bar soaps and a shard of mirror with the reflection of an uncommonly well proportioned young man:

Also, note the red safety scissors (!?), carefully tucked away behind the power conduit serving the non-functional light.

Below is a view of the commode, which again illustrates the incredibly cramped quarters.

We can see some reading material left on the toilet tank. What foul literature could lurk in this small cubicle of filth?

Emily Post's Complete Book of Wedding Etiquette! And a filthy toilet paper tube! And three napkins, which are the only toilet paper-esque substance in the entire area. I learned this latter fact through an intense personal difficulty that was eventually resolved by means of a bad collection of independent poetry that had been delivered to the building. Apparently that's what the scissors are for..


Friday, July 21, 2006

You Sweaty Scenester Bastard!

I've successfully made the trek to Kansas, despite minor hangups at the border and a nightmarish experience with a caged, incontinent, woolly poop machine in my backseat. I will post the details later if I'm feeling sadistic. Anyhow, my sister took me to a concert tonight. Ah the joys of the Wichita indie "scene."

Okay, so we saw the band Chiodos. They're not really my usual style, but they rocked pretty damn hard, and I had fun my with my sister. I seriously hope that I regain my hearing. Apparently, the show was supposed to be an eighteen-and-over affair at the wonderfully adequate J.C.'s House of Rock.

Upon arriving at the House of Rock, I find: 1) This is apparently not an eighteen-and-over show. This is made apparent by the fact that 2) The mean age of the crowd is approximately 16.7. At this point, I begin to feel like a cross between a chaperone, loser bastard, and dirty old man. I've just quit smoking, and am dismayed to find that 3) People around the age of 16.7 in Wichita think smoking looks really cool. I never realized just how irritating clove cigarettes are until I shared the air for three hours with a 16 year old scenester choad who won't man up and buy a pack of Marlboros. Oh, yeah, and: 4) Three people were apparently murdered in this club a few years ago, when it was a swingin' hispanic club with the creative and enigmatic name of Club Mexico. Amanda may post some extra grisly stuff later, as she has been crawling Google with the determination and vigor of a hungry Shih-Tzu at a Sunday picnic. Suffice it to say that they had to change their full name from "Club Mexico: Where We Won't Shoot And Dismember You," to the more austere, "Club Mexico."

This set the tone for the evening (in fact the opening band even invoked the spirits of the slain men in a desperate ploy to appear edgy, even relevant). It's me, my sister, and 300 16-year old indie kids. And there's no bar in sight. As I watched the bands I spied such interesting folk as: "Guy in a camo t-shirt, tight girl's jeans, white belt, and giant white sweatband parading around with an inflatable sword (lest we mistake him for someone normal)" and "Girl with shag haircut and contemporary t-shirt #327." I was educated in the ways of "hardcore dancing" by about 10 under 18 punks in varying stages of undress, and got to watch most Chiodos from behind a large man in a sweaty System of a Down t-shirt that smelled like a giant bag of anuses. Fun. Oh, and then there was the "dancer" whose pants were slowly heading south as he gyrated arrhythmically to the rhythmic sounds of Chiodos, revealing his blue BVDs. It was all that I could do to keep from grabbing the waistband of this scrawny little scenester bastard's undergarment and giving him the wedgie to end all wedgies, refusing to let go until the waistband broke, tugging with the might of some mythical wedgie beast--part crocodile, part hippopotamus, part lion, 100 percent ass-rending terror. Seriously. My sister had to hold me back.

Despite my grumpy grumblings, I did have fun with my sister and Chiodos were pretty cool (if a little loud for my aging ears). Sorry about the wedgie beast, I had to go to the dentist and all they had to read besides Marie Claire and Highlights was an aging National Geographic about the Egyptian afterlife. One man's souleater is another's wedgie beast. Also, I found the bar as we were leaving. It looked nice.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Already this week, I have spent an inordinate amount of time standing in line. Thus, today's post will provide an introduction to a new and fascinating Canadian professional sport: waiting.

The prototypical Canadian waiting team features 2 members: Amy and myself. I have also had success in singles waiting, which involves a slightly higher level of strategy (frustration). Essentially the waiting game is played as follows:

The defending team faces any number of attackers. Their goal: keep the attackers waiting for as long as possible. A great example of defense strategy is the McDonald's lobby trap. In this system, the defenders lurk as far away from the one open register as possible. This location is kept secret, so the attackers have no idea which register to queue up in front of. The attackers counter by staying toward the back of the lobby, which allows the defenders to continue with a strong lurking game. If an attacker breaks through this defense, successfully placing an order, the defenders change their play-style from lurking to Brownian motion. They move around in a random fashion, bouncing off of fry-stations and burger-bins. Throughout, it is important that the attackers can see their food, waiting to be picked up and placed on their brown plastic tray. Under no circumstances, however, should the defenders make a direct effort to this effect. Rather, they should continue to oscillate aimlessly around the kitchen area, half-heartedly picking up meal components only when their motion brings them suitably close to them.

Allow me to give you a play by play account of one of my recent matches:

Defender: McDonald's
Attackers: Justin and Amy vs. Mathematically-Challenged Adolescent Without Sufficient Money vs. Belligerent Man Who Doesn't Want Lettuce on His Big Mac.
Play-by-Play: Justin and Amy arrive at McDonald's, slightly ahead of Belligerent Man. It would seem that they have the advantage, but McDonald's is running a strong lurking strategy. As they are waiting for an open register Idiot Adolescent comes out of nowhere and sidles smoothly to the front of the queue. By now Belligerent Man has arrived, and asks if Justin and Amy are "in LINE, or WHAT?" Justin and Amy affirm that they are, indeed, in line, while Mathematically-Challenged Adolescent begins his order:

Mathematically-Challenged Adolescent (MCA): "How much for a Big Mac and a large Coke"
McDonald's Employee (ME): "..." (15 seconds pass)
ME: (begins slowly pushing buttons) "...$5.87"
MCA: (looks at the $5 bill in his hands, then hands it to Employee)
ME: "That's not enough..."
MCA: "How much for a small Coke?"

(It is important to note that MCA does not suffer from any recognized mental handicap.... He's just a little dumb)

At this point, Belligerent Man comes into action!

Belligerent Man (BM): (belligerently) "OH, FOR CRYIN' OOT LOUD!"
Justin and Amy (JA): (look disgustedly at Idiot Adolescent then back at Belligerent Man)
ME: (begins slowly pushing buttons)
MCA: (fingers $5 bill slowly with grubby hands)
ME: "$5.67"
MCA: (hands $5 bill to Employee)
ME: "...That's still not enough"
MCA: "How much for a cheeseburger and small Coke?"
ME: (begins slowly pushing buttons) "$4.12"

Mathematically-Challenged Adolescent hands the grubby bill to ME and takes first place! It's now a race between Justin and Amy and Belligerent Man. Suddenly a new register opens!

McDonald's Employee 2 (ME2): "I can help you over here."
JA: "Okay, we'd like a number 4, with a--"
ME2: (walks suddenly to fryer)
BM: (moving to register operated by ME) "OKAY, I'd like a number ONE, with a COKE!"
ME: (begins slowly pushing buttons) "The combo?"
BM: "YES!"
ME: "What do you want to drink with that?"
ME: "Okay, is that it?"
ME: "No lettuce?
ME: "Okay."
ME: "Okay."

At this point, McDonald's Employee 2 arrives and takes Justin and Amy's order. It's now a race! Luckily McDonald's Employee 2's random motion carries her to the burger bin before the other employees can finish taking turns spitting on Belligerent Man's Big Mac, and they eke out a second place finish! Another exciting match in the exciting world of Canadian waiting.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Obligatory Post of the Beast

"Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on."

--Hamlet III.2

"What the hell?
No 'Sympathy for the Devil'?!"


In honor of the (questionably) ominous date, every site I frequent has apparently decided to publish some kind of infernal list. Particularly infernal is Allmusic's The Devil's Playlist. , I'll admit that the best strategy when reading anything concocted by Allmusic's editorial staff involves a large grain of low-expectation-flavored salt. All the same, this list is rather atrocious. Allow me to enumerate its failings in a smug fashion:

Allmusic's typical obscurist holier-than-thou-mutual-admiration-fest. For instance, note that Bauhaus was not fringe enough for this list. No, they had to choose a track from Peter Murphy (Bauhaus lead vocalist)'s solo career. To be fair, they make the track sound mighty good!

No Nick Cave. Come on, you've got to be kidding me! Okay, if Nick Cave wasn't obscure enough, they could always have chosen anything the Birthday Party ever wrote. Interestingly enough, they even have to invoke "Red Right Hand" in order to describe a more obscure track that was chosen in its place in order to placate the insidious hipster contingent.

At this point, I must point out that both of the choices mentioned above seem very apt, and it may just be that my taste in music is too pedestrian for the AMG staff. Even in the throws of obscurism, however, they seemed to find space for such staples as Black Sabbath, Slayer (honestly...), and even the Eagles' "Hotel California." And (you must be thinking) the incredibly obvious "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones. Nope. Not even mentioned. NOT EVEN MENTIONED! DAMN YOU, AMG EDITORIAL STAFF!

Also absent from the list: Electric Six. Hey, Tenacious D made the cut, thanks to Ms. Cammila "Look - At - Me - I'm - Being - Irreverent - So - As - To - Point - Out - How - Silly - It - Is - That - A - Critic - Of - My - Acumen - Must - Stoop - To - Choosing - Songs - For - This - List" Albertson. Speaking of Cammila Albertson, let's look at this dumb bunny's other choice: U2's "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car." Um. I'm pretty sure that song has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE DEVIL! Great. I can only assume that the Stones were bumped for this questionable choice.

I can't take it anymore. What's the deal with U2 anyway? I'm sorry, maybe it's just because the first U2 album to come out after the point at which I became seriously interested in music was Pop, but I just don't get it. Yeah, U2's good. But there's always some jackass at the party that seems to think U2 are revolutionary. Good, yes. Catchy, yes. Well crafted, yes. Great, occasionally. Revolutionary, no. They write good rock/pop songs (including the occasional exceptional track). That's it, folks.

So, the (very humble) beginnings of an appropriate 6/6/06 playlist:

Electric Six - Devil Nights
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand (or possibly Loverman)
Liars - We Fenced Other Houses With The Bones of Our Own
Murder by Death - Devil in Mexico
Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Algae and Tentacles - Dr. Polichik

And here, dear reader, I leave off for further suggestions...