29 September 2013

Today I was sitting in my bed, mind completely blank for once, staring at a part of my wall where the sunlight was flickering here and there. And I thought, “This is nice.”

And then a memory materialized in my head and I started laughing really hard. It was one of those memories that feels new, because I hadn’t worn it down by thinking about it too much. I knew right away that it was the first time I had thought about it since it had actually occurred.

It was in autumn of 2007. I was sitting in a lecture hall at the community college in my hometown, waiting for my sociology teacher to show up.

This man was amazing. I still think about him sometimes, because he was so god damn weird and real. He’d probably be my hero, if I had heroes. (I wonder if he’s dead yet?)

Anyway, on this day he was a little late, which was unusual. That dude was almost always on time. Eventually he did show up, and when he did, his signature Hawaiian shirt was buttoned incorrectly and he looked sweaty and frazzled and crazy. He approached the podium at the front of the room, slammed his briefcase down on top and popped it open to remove a single piece of chalk. He then approached the chalkboard and wrote, in enormous, frenzied letters,

CIVILIZATION HAS FAILED

He threw the chalk down on the carpet and spun around and put his hands on his hips, breathing heavily. “You got that?!” he said.

A girl in the front row raised her hand.

“Yes?! What?!” he said.

“But what does it mean?” said the girl.

“It means this thing—this fuckin’ thing, whatever it is,” he whirled his hand around wildly, “has been nothing less than an unmitigated god damn disaster since day one, and it’s finally over.” And with that he stormed out of the room, muttering that class was cancelled.

28 September 2013

ryanmail

Generally every day during lunch I write a letter to someone far away. It’s a nice thing, to put pen to paper, and to draw skeletons and cats (and skeleton-cats), and to place into envelopes all the strange, flat items I find in my room. Even if the person never writes back, it does something to me—something I would say is altogether wonderful and free of any downsides (how many of such things exist?)—to hear from these people in some other medium, usually through my phone, that they have received my labor and have placed it somewhere safe to keep for-ever.

I told John the other day, while we were sipping bourbon from a hollowed-out skull and chopping firewood at 2 am, that we should get a P.O. box for VIII NOTHING where we can receive letters and packages and boxes containing severed hands. He made a noise, kind of a grunt, that I interpreted as him finding this to be an agreeable idea. The letters we would receive, I went on, would be swiftly answered to whomever had written—that our thoughtful pen-pal would get a one-of-a-kind follow-up letter no later than seven business days after we had scanned their fine work in our trembling hands while standing half-dead and half-drunk in the nerve center of VIII NOTHING (our kitchen).

John grunted again and collapsed into the herb garden, mostly overgrown with mint, and began burp-yodeling “Soul Man” by legendary R&B duo Sam & Dave.

So: next week we will make our way to the swank post office in Downtown Oakland and get a P.O. box. Once we have the address, we’ll share it here, and you can write to us if that is what you feel like doing. We’ll write you back!

Dante is willing to receive mail as well. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? To receive fan mail for a cat? Shit, maybe he’ll respond, too. (Dante is illiterate according to our standards, but we’ll figure it out.)

Want some stuff? We’ll send you some stuff. Just words? We’ll send you more words than you’ll know what to fuckin’ do with.

We’ve got two typewriters in this house, after all. Hmm. We’ll see!

28 September 2013

danters

Y’all knew we had a ship’s cat, right? A ship’s cat is a feline buddy who accompanies sailors and other boat-dudes on long voyages across the sea, primarily to hunt for rodents, but also because cats are cool as hell and it’s nice to have them around.

Anyway, this ship is the S.S. DOOMSDAY, and it’s not actually a ship at all: it’s a big ol’ house in Oakland, California. It’s where John and I do our sleeping and eating and bathing and blinking and breathing. We work on VIII NOTHING there, too. It is our corporate (hah!) headquarters; our citadel of sin; our shelter from the madness of this doomed planet.

And of course we’ve got a cat running around this damn place. That cat is named Dante Greyhame Allan Poe Starsailor, and he’s a righteous dude. (He’s also super weird.) The picture you see above was taken three days ago when I stepped out of my sleeping quarters to put the kettle on; it was high noon and time for tea. There was Dante, splayed out on the couch in an “aw, he thinks he’s people” sort of way. It was terribly funny—I could hardly stop laughing.

He just sat there, gazing at me, as if to say, “Yes? For God’s sake, did you need something?”

I said the magic word after that, which was “hungry”. I phrased it as a question: “Dante, are you hungry?”

Dante seldom meows—only when he’s sad about something—but when he hears the few human words he knows (“hungry,” “food,” “sit,” “Dante!” and “treats” (he’s learning “tuna”)), he chirrups. This amazing little trill comes tumbling out of his throat and he prances about, tail swaying, because he wants me to know that he understood what it is I have said to him and that he would very much like it if I filled his food bowl with whatever tasty noun I think he should have.

And I thought, yes, this little guy, at once my son and confidant and closest companion, yes: he is the official mascot of VIII NOTHING; he is, as John once said, the patron saint of the Oakland literati. I must tell the world about Dante (I thought), because otherwise how will they know?

I met Dante when he was only seven weeks old. I picked him up from some crummy shithouse on Lombard Street in Baltimore and took him home with me so we could be cool bros together. He has been my good and faithful friend ever since.

More Dante news from now on! He’s an important part of this fine enterprise we’re steering into oblivion. Without him, we wouldn’t wake up in the morning (Dante demands to be fed as the sun rises), and there’s no question that we’d be even more unhappy than we already are.

28 September 2013

thedeluge

John Martin must have had a pretty rough life, because all of his paintings make you feel really hopeless and miserable (in the best possible way), though hell, the man sure could do some neat things.

26 September 2013

Gritt looked up at the six-story building his best friend Shark was sworn to protect. He couldn’t help but admit to himself that it was a fine piece of architecture. But more than that, it represented a human institution he felt was of the utmost importance: education.

Dude, yessssssss.

26 September 2013

A lot of jerks have “personal websites”. I guess that makes me Just Another Jerk.

But here’s the thing: on those jerks’ websites, they will often list every jerk talk they’ve given, every jerk interview they’ve participated in, every stupid shred of jerk media that involves them. I ain’t one of those jerks, that’s for god dang sure.

What I am about to share with you, whoever you are (it’s very possible I’m talking to no one), is a thing that is enjoyable on its own, whether I am in it or not. See, several weeks ago my good friend, the polymath genius Tim Rogers, asked me to come over and be a part of a commercial he was making for a videogame whose creation he had absolutely nothing to do with.

Some important-enough people in the marketing department at Sony Computer Entertainment America had seen his infomercials for his own games (here and here) and decided, hey, this guy can do for zero dollars what we do for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars. So they handed him the marketing duties for DIVEKICK, a “2D competitive parody fighting game” which you play with only two buttons.

Tim wrote the script the night before and we filmed it at noon the next day. Here it is:

When I sent it to my family, they said it was nice to finally know that “the guy you were always visiting in Japan is actually a real person” and that I look “completely different”. Welp, OK!

25 September 2013

If I somehow end up in a position of authority in the post-apocalyptic world, the citizens of my nation-state will be issued a copy of Moby-Dick at birth. I’ve been re-reading it recently, and holy lord did Herman Melville know what he was doing. It is the Bible for burned-out believe-in-nothing sad-dudes the world over.

I first read M-D (what the pros call it) during the summer between 11th and 12th grade, and while it moved me deeply at the time, I hadn’t experienced enough terrible bullshit for it to rock my testicles like has been recently:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.

If nothing else, take those last two lines and carve them into your brain. Hell, it’s really all you need to navigate through this miserable fucking place.

25 September 2013

I write super short stories all day long. I guess I wrote this one back in February or March when I felt like a sack of horse shit:

She pushed the magic button and didn’t feel sad anymore. Feeling sad is for losers. You should be happy! It’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.

25 September 2013

Karel stayed in the room, alone with Ellington. He was happy the clouds had dispersed but was expecting nothing more this evening. That bit of an incident over the telephone call had suddenly revealed something he had refused to acknowledge: he was tired and no longer desired anything.

Karel heard water gurgling and the two women laughing in the bathroom, and he reflected that he had never been able to live the way he wanted, to have the women he wanted and to have them the way he wanted them. He longed to run away to a place where he could weave his own story, weave it by himself to his own taste and out of the reach of loving eyes.

And deep down he did not even care about weaving himself a story, he simply wanted to be alone.

Yeah, this book is pretty good.

19 September 2013

gloomyboston

Yesterday I was blazing across the western sky, 30,000 feet or so above blurry topography I hardly cared about, feeling run-down and broken. And I don’t mean that in some small, cutesy way. I mean my insides were putrified, brain and all, from which I still have not recovered (and probably never will). During the flight from Boston to Houston I felt a sickness creep up my throat and I knew I had contracted something from some fucking jerkoff in New England—maybe from holding on to a hand strap on the T, or from touching the railing to steady myself as I ascended from the darkness of the orange line and into those cold, cold streets. Or it could have come from one of my housemates at the “monastery”—we were in close proximity, living like brothers who were also strangers—in which case I forgive them entirely. They were good and decent people. I met few others.

I am in a rotten mood and I feel as though I could get angry or frustrated easily, which is unusual for me, so I have taken to my bedroom to get away from anyone I could harm to write this thing and have put on some good music and lit some candles and incense and have got with me a hot cup of peppermint tea. These creature comforts, which barely affect me anymore (and which were once so powerful), are mostly ineffective tonight. But what else can I do? The alternative is darkness and silence and time spent deep inside my head, which, other than a public space filled with terrible, mindless, screaming human beings, is the last place I want to be.

Something has flipped, a switch—a significant one, maybe—and I feel like I can’t do the damn thing anymore. I carry on with this ageless face but inside it’s all turned to ash. My body has finally caught up with my mind. It aches and is useless to me. I feel like a wireframe outline of a human: a phantom, an empty highway of misfiring nerve endings and fading neon.

I have just opened a matchbook I found in the breast pocket my denim jacket—when did I put this here?—to light another candle, only to discover my own drunk handwriting scrawled on the back of the cover. If anything can be said to even happen at all, then this must have happened three nights ago when I was wandering dead neighborhoods in Rhode Island feeling bitter and insane. As best I can tell this is what I wrote, probably because it seemed important that I remember it at the time:

I see purple lights under the bridge on Pleasant Street . . . and I think, “What? Why?” This isn’t pleasant at all. I was awoken by the cold and my body needed warm blood surging through it or I would collapse again . . . the sign reads “Pawtucket celebrates 200 yrs of freemasonry.”

Well, I’ll certainly use it when I write this piece, which is complete in my brain and has been since the moments erected themselves around me. On a night when I put myself in the way of great peril, and did things which have, I now know, endangered my future on this planet, I had enough sense to jot down some half-decent ideas on train tickets and bar receipts. They are right here on my desk. I am looking at them. As someone who can’t stand virtually everything, especially my own witless rambling, I like these scattered fragments of that awful night. There is no filter, no audience in mind, just reactions to my surroundings—squeezed out, pulp and all, from a strange and badly wounded place. I will save these little thoughts, which I will turn into great big thoughts, for something that I hope will help my musician friends retire comfortably (“I will bleed myself out for you all,” I had told them in a less dramatic way. “I will make them see what they have ignored for so long.”)

It would be fair to say I have lost, or am losing, my mind. “Madness cornering me from every angle”—that sort of thing. What I want now is comfort and to hear beautiful noise and for my body to be restored. That’s not so different, I don’t think, from what I wrote at 3 am in a fit of exhaustion and delirium during that first stormy night in Boston, only six days ago now, but longer ago in my mind, like some half-remembered dream:

Really all I want is a cup of tea and a hug and for some friendly person to walk on my spine.

In the present my cup is empty and my face is leaking. Dante is hungry and he wants me to feed him. My spine is as crooked as a question mark.

I had said to Jon, the Zen monk, on the morning I left: “When a man is weary the world seems unkind.”

“When we arrive at ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and the answer doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said, “then we can do either, or neither—or both.”

Rising from his place in front of the old oven, he wrapped a black scarf around his neck and looked through me. “Remember?” he said. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”