02 October 2013

The thing is good

I like the thing

I have been using the thing for about two weeks now and I can’t say enough good about the thing

The thing is lightweight and small

I enjoy the thing’s simple, clean design

The thing does everything you want, and nothing you don’t

I am proud to display the thing in my home

The thing is relatively inexpensive, and available in most stores

Overall score: 9.5/10

01 October 2013

mgmt

In 2007, college friends Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden made a record because they probably didn’t know what the hell else they were supposed to be doing. It was called Oracular Spectacular, and it was pretty good. It had some nice songs on it. They were enjoyable to listen to. A few songs from the album attracted the attention of millions of mouth-breathers the world over, and suddenly Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden knew they would probably never want for anything ever again, but felt bummed about it anyway, because Jesus Christ, people, you bought the album for “Kids”? We don’t even really like that song, thought Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, maybe, and we wrote that shit all the way back in 2005. Oh, well, thought Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, before placing a few more tabs of acid on their beautiful watermelon-pink tongues.

Two years later, obviously creeped out by the success of their first album, and after touring the world many times over and standing in front a bunch of dopes who don’t really give a damn about the cool dudes bleeding out before them, the two released a “reactionary” album called Congratulations. It was about a million times better than Oracular Spectacular. Most of the album sounded like the weirder, more esoteric second half of OS, which people didn’t seem to care for or understand, because they couldn’t really dance mindlessly to it at their jerkoff friend’s dumbass party. The album was a big shrug. It was two guys saying, “Man, whatever, here’s some more fucking music I guess.” It was so good that a 23-year-old man in Baltimore, who had just broken up with his long-term girlfriend whom he still loved, listened to it and very little else for three otherwise miserable months. Congratulations became an album that the drooling amorphous blob of cells known as “people” claimed just wasn’t all that good, because y’all didn’t make anything that sounded like “Time to Pretend” again, which was catchy, and hell, you know you gotta make them songs catchy if you want any chance of being loved by human-shaped creatures who don’t know what the hell they like or why they like it in the first place. MGMT shrugged at the world, and the world shrugged back.

Finally: Here we are in the year of our Lord 2013, and the two young men collectively known as MGMT have released their third album, a self-titled collection of ten weird, somber Brian Eno tunes. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing they’ve put out. There’s no part of it that says, “Here’s that thing you wanted.” Rather, it is, even more than Congratulations, forty-four solid minutes of, “Here’s this thing that we would be making by ourselves with no audience anyway, but, uhhhh, you guys can buy it if you feel like doing that.” The cover, which features lavender child VanWyngarden standing frozen in a glob of inertia-indifference as Goldwasser gazes on, half-amused, if he’s not asleep, into what very well may be an empty bird cage, in front of a suburban hair salon/consignment shop that is maybe holding a yard sale on a perfectly nice, harmless, muted, floating-through-a-painless-dream kind of day, is all you need to know about the album. It depicts precisely how the album feels. In that sense it’s as honest as they come.

A 25-year-old man in Oakland, who has few “real” friends and no girlfriend, and who has zero prospects or desire to change that fact, has hung out with MGMT’s MGMT since the day it was released—has listened to it about a hundred times now. And it has made him feel pretty OK at an age when feeling OK requires a great deal of effort that he’s not sure is worth the expense.

As far as I can tell, not many people seem to like MGMT. But then again, who cares? The world is a god damn joke anyway.

For what it’s worth, it is a nice thing and the few of us still paying attention are glad it exists. Thanks, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden.

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.