I dwell on death a lot; it’s a morbid hobby of mine. Here are my 16 hilarious thoughts about death. I’m available for eulogies and birthday parties.
Welcome to the Circumlocution Office. Please fill out these ten pointless forms, so we can throw them in the trash and then set it on fire.
If you know your Dickens, the Circumlocution Office was a fictitious office in the novel, Little Dorrit. The CO is a bureaucracy, where nothing gets done and is in a state of endless confusion. It’s a ridiculous place, where forms need to be filled out in order to request more forms. Everything goes round and round in a circle, always ending with nothing getting done and the CO office commending themselves for what a great job they did. The office has no public accountability, uses no critical thinking and is run purely for the benefit of its incompetent and obstructive officials. It’s an office that seems likely to either destroy or cave in on itself in the end. The CO is primarily run by a family named Barnacle. No doubt a joke on Dickens’ part, because barnacles attach themselves to things like a leach and are very hard to remove.
The office is never, on any account to give a straight answer and they get indignant at being questioned. An example, is when the youngest Barnacle points out someone to his friend saying, “He walked in without an appointment and said he wanted to know, you know.” Knowledge can be so tiresome. The most important thing about the Circumlocution Office is their unofficial motto, something they take great pride in, and that is, the art of, “how not to do something.” Whatever it is, whatever needs to be done, you can bet the CO will not do it with great gusto.
Here in the United States, we have our own Circumlocution Office; it’s called the United States government and just like the CO has the Barnacle family, we have the Trump family. The head of our CO is Donald Trump, a guy who, had he not inherited money, would currently be outside your car window cleaning it with a squeegee. Another Barnacle is Jared Kushner, a German villain from a 1920’s silent film. He is literally in charge of everything. He is in charge of being in charge. By being in charge of so many things, he has just enough time to accomplish nothing at any of them. Where Jared is in charge of everything, his wife and counterpart is in charge of nothing, thereby completing the pointless circle. She does have security clearance, which is very important when you have no real interest in politics.
The spokesperson, who has to translate for our CO, making indiscernible words discernible, is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. A woman whose facial expression always says, “I’m mortified, but I’m getting paid a lot of money.” Her most recent conference, was defending Trump’s use of the phrase, “many sides,” like it was some kind of white supremacist origami. It’s all about defending the indefensible and drawing moral equivalencies, that should not be drawn. This is what protects the Circumlocution Office and keeps the crazy train running on time. When we want to know things, like what was in the initial top secret Republican healthcare bill, we were met with scorn and indignation. We needed to know what was in this bill that affects millions of people and is matter of life or death for some. In other words we wanted, “to know, you know.” As it stands, the bill wants to cut Medicaid, bring back preexisting conditions, get rid of the individual mandate and give a massive tax break to those less fortunate than us…the wealthiest one percent.
Like in pure CO fashion, it is constantly praising itself for doing nothing. After only seven months, Trump claims he has done more in his presidency that any other president, including FDR. Remember the president FDR, who only served 13 years? LOL! In reality, the only thing Trump has done so far, is play golf, tweet, fire 8 senior officials, including the head of the FBI, shared intelligence with Russia, played more golf, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and blame Obama, Congress and the Loch Ness monster for everything wrong. He did however, bring back some coal mining jobs to the early 19th century. His babbling in front of the podium, can only be described, by what Dickens said about the CO. “One of two things always happened, namely, either that the Circumlocution Office had nothing to say and said it, or that it had something to say, of which someone blundered one half of it and forgot the other.”
One of the reoccurring themes at the CO office was the importance of filling out forms that ultimately had no meaning. At our CO office, we have similar forms, namely an SF-86. A form, that lets the rest of government know, that you will have no conflicts of interest at your new post and can get security clearance. Mike Flynn, former National Security Adviser, failed to report payments from foreign governments, and his consulting firms promoted US/Russia join efforts, to build a nuclear power plant in the Middle East. All of this, made Flynn a potential target for Russian blackmail. Jared Kushner failed to disclose 12 meetings with foreign officials, one of which was with Russian ambassadors and had a meeting with a bank specifically sanctioned by the US, for its role, in propping up corrupt oligarchs. It’s the kind of thing we need to know, if your unofficial title is, “Errand Boy.”
The Circumlocution Office is alive and well in the United States, and it will ultimately, “shipwreck everyone” as one character put it in Little Dorrit, and like the Titanic, there won’t be enough lifeboats for everyone.
This is the 5th book in the, I Just Want to Pee Alone series and it did not disappoint. BDYD, is a series of essays written by some very funny people, about the rigors of being a parent. You always have anxieties as a parent, no matter how much experience you have, but when you’re a new parent, the prospects of doing or saying the wrong thing, that results in your child losing the power of speech, so they just point to a picture of you to their therapist for the rest of their lives, is palpable. What if I raise a serial killer? What if my child joins a ska band? These are legitimate fears, especially the latter.
Before the birth of my first child, I read everything from Penelope Leach, to yes, Dr. Spock. (not the one from Star Trek unfortunately) Most of the information in these books, although informative, either isn’t practical, or doesn’t fit your situation. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read books on parenting, because some facts come in handy, like in the essay, “Me, My Inferior Boobs and My Green Baby,” where the author, Elizabeth Argyropoulos, notices when her water breaks, that it’s tinted green, which is a sign the baby might be in distress. Overall though, the information in the books, isn’t going to help you at 3:30 in the morning, when your baby is projectile vomiting and has diarrhea. Most parenting books are, ‘how to’ books, where as BDYD, is more of a, ‘how the hell?” type of a book.
I grew up back in the days before safety was invented. Like most of us, I didn’t wear a helmet riding my bike and seat belts were optional. I managed to live through it all, which is also the premise of this book and the title comes from a response, that author Jen Mann, gets from her mom, after criticizing her parenting methods, mainly not putting sunscreen on her at the beach, and stuffing her under a beach chair instead. Her mom’s reply was, “Well, but did you die?” And there you have it, this was the gold standard of parenting when we were growing up. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.
What I love most about this book, is that not only is it funny, it’s totally relatable, because I have faced similar mortifying situations. Granted, I never caught my baby’s shit in my hands, so that the couch doesn’t get stained, as author Mike Cruse did in, “Parents Catch ALL the Shit,” but that’s because I would catch scorpions being hurled at me, before I’d catch shit in my hands. These essays, let you know that you’re not alone in your parental faux pas. You’re not going to do everything right; you’re probably going to nod off at your daughter’s dance recital, after watching 80 kids before it’s her turn. All parents dread children’s birthday parties, because if you check under their fingernails, they will be bloody, from their attempt at trying to claw their way out of a Chuck E. Cheese, like some kind of Edgar Allan Poe character, whose been buried alive. You are not by yourself, things happen and life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, even though it may seem like it from that one (or two or three) annoying friend on FB, whose family seems perfect and is always posting how her kid is a prodigy and can whittle a house out of a block of wood. Meanwhile, your kid is poking the cat with a stick. Just take a deep breath, because chances are, even if your friend’s kid can whittle a house out of a block of wood, they are probably also poking the cat with a stick.
But Did You Die? is a wonderfully hilarious book, filled with truisms, that kept me entertained at every turn of the page. I highly recommend buying the book for yourself or as a gift to a friend, who has kids. It’s a book that every parent can appreciate.
But Did You Die?: Setting the Parenting Bar Low is available on Amazon. http://amzn.to/2fP2Lpj
The process of trying to get a job can be very stressful. You want your resume to really highlight your accomplishments, like your certificate of completion from the Mime Academy of Dramatic Arts. Showcase those skills, like the one time you were able to get that Lego Storm Trooper out of your toddler’s nose, without going to the emergency room. Once you’ve landed the interview, be confident and speak your mind. Let them know you will kick ass for their company and are willing to die slowly, over a five to ten year period, sitting in a cubicle and staring lifelessly at your computer. Here are some helpful tips on how to get the Jobby Job of your dreams.
Today I’m speaking with the very sophic, Nathan Lund Eastman, author of Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund. PHMF is a compelling book about redefined beliefs and the metamorphosis of friendship.
M: How did you come up with the title, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund? In the book, it’s just a bookcase with empty beer and wine bottles. Is that the case, or is there more of a backstory to it?
N: First off, I just want to say thanks for taking the time to do this. You’re the first person who has ever interviewed me, and I appreciate your interest in my work. As to the title, well, that’s actually a novel in itself. The title I had for ages was, The Whole Sad Monstrous Scheme, which I like as a title, but it didn’t fit the book. So, I scrapped that and started calling it, The Romantics, because the two main characters are very romantic in their ideas about life, which get crushed in a hurry. There were two problems with the title. One, was that it was a 2010 film starring Katie Holmes and John Duhamel, which was a hard pill to swallow. The other problem, was that I started playing up the ‘romantic’ sections of the novel, with loaded language meant to point the reader to the overall ‘meaning,’ which reeks of contrivance. So, I looked back through the book for a phrase and found, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund. There is more to it than just a bookcase full of bottles, because it comes up again at the end, when the contexts of the characters’ lives have been radically altered. So, the title has a double meaning, a lighthearted meaning, and a more tired meaning.
M: How long did it take for you to write the novel? Were you on a schedule with certain writing goals, or was it more random?
N: Writing has never been a back burner activity for me. I’ve done it daily in some capacity for years, and more so in recent years, as time has begun to creep up on me. I write seven days a week, two to five hours a day. This book took… eight years, maybe nine, which is obscene. I thought it would be easy to write, because it’s based in large part on actual life experiences of myself and a very good friend, but I’d read way too much David Foster Wallace and Jon Franzen and tried to emulate that maximalist style. It blew up in my face like pinata full of C-4. If memory serves, there were at least ten different beginnings and five distinct drafts, and they were drastically different from the first. I had friends, who helped me along the way, most notably a poet named, Courtney Queeney, who told me it read like therapy in too many places. She was right, so I cut all that. That was probably the fourth revision. The the last revision, was just me being absolutely ruthless and cutting everything that didn’t serve the story, and as a result, much of the dialogue went out the window. This scared me, because it’s a story about two friends, and that friendship in real life is based in large part on a dialogue, that’s been running for almost two decades now. So, I found ways to suggest that the characters were talking all the time, and then wove those tidbits into the narrative in such a way, that the story felt like an extension of that ongoing conversation. That was the hope, anyway.
M: Your novel centers around two friends, Paul Strickland and Chris King. I love reading about friendships, whether real, like Thomas Becket and King Henry II, or fictitious like, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, because friendship is a different kind of bond between two people. Have you had/have the type of friendship that Chris and Paul have in your life?
N: Yes, totally. Real friendship. Let me clarify something, I’m very much a loner. I went through much of my life socially alone, except for girlfriends, but there came a time, where I needed someone to help me navigate a very difficult passage of life. I couldn’t trust my instincts anymore, because my instincts are what got me into that mess. My friend helped guide me through. The decisions I made as result of his counsel, turned out to be good ones, and I am forever indebted to him. If I hadn’t had that support, my troubles would likely have been multiplied exponentially. That’s part of what the book is about. The other part, is a wide angle look at two characters confronting adulthood (parenthood and divorce for Paul, cancer and addiction for King).
M: Chris King is an interesting character and reminds me very much of Dean Moriarty from, On the Road, and the first part of the novel is very Kerouacian, with all the traveling and discovery. Was, On the Road and influence at all for you when writing this story?
N: Strangely, I didn’t realize it was an influence, until I happened to reread, The Great Gatsby and thought about books that had a first-person narrator embedded in the narrative (which Poet’s does). On The Road is the same, although the narrator, Sal Paradise, has a much more significant role than Nick Carraway does in Gatsby. Now, the funny part about both those books, is they’re about relatively young people in flux, who have yet to commit their lives to anything substantial. (Sal Paradise is divorced, but feels young.) That’s what we want so often as an audience, the sexy years. Sexy times. I also think that because that’s what we want, not enough has been written about the unsexy years, the years when you run out of road and you’re changing diapers and the woman you love gets cancer. A lot of stuff that is written in that vein, tends to be on the comedic-side, in the sense that things come together in the end, Hollywood-style. I wanted to be more true to life’s inescapable tragedies, and the fact that, so often stuff just falls apart. I wanted to write something that maps that transition, from the wanderlust phase to the embattled phase, without dwelling so much on the latter, that it becomes unpalatable. Because it does become unpalatable. As much as the purists will tell you entertainment doesn’t matter, it does. One final note on this thread: I also balance the narrator/ subject dynamic to where it’s almost exactly 50/50. You get the narrator’s life, and the subject’s, and can compare for yourself, look for commonalities and divergences, etc. That’s the part that makes me the most proud. True to American adulthood, the friends live on different coasts and the friendship not only survives that geographic chasm, but matures into a lifelong bond and that, as they say, is the shit.
M: Your novel has some wonderful visual imagery, such as, “the dance floor swayed like a Hydra.” When you’re writing, do you feel like you’re telling a story in terms of the images or vignettes that you imagine for these characters’ lives, or is it more dialogue driven?
N: I kind of addressed this above, with what I said about dialogue. I love dialogue, but I think it’s dangerous. I think it used to be less so, when the culture was less image driven, but now we are driven by images to such an extent, that if writing doesn’t show the ways in which it can add a significant dimension to the visual world, it risks becoming esoteric in the way philosophy and theological writing were esoteric to previous generations. (Looking back over this sentence, it reads as mildly ridiculous, but it’s actually something I think about a lot and believe there is some truth to, however much it sounds like horse puckey.) In short: yes, visual writing matters. The compressed, succinct image has never been more relevant. I feel the central conversation should be between the writer and the reader, not the characters. That’s my personal rule of thumb, and if I break it, it’s intentional. That’s not to say dialogue should only be minimal, but it has to be artfully integrated into the narrative stream. Which, incidentally, was my guiding mental image for this final edit: a clear stream running over rocks. Transparent, fluid.
M: Both the characters as young men, are anti-institutional and have a very definitive way at looking at life. As the characters get older, they are faced with marriage, children, illness and careers they would have previously had contempt for doing. Does that in anyway mirror your own life; have you had to take a job, you would have never thought of doing when you were younger?
N: Yes to all that. I’ve been at the same job for 13 years and prior to that, I’d never stayed 13 years anywhere, my entire life. I’m a restless man, and I’m like 78% hermit. My job is okay, it pays the bills and allows me to care for my daughter. That’s all I can say about it really, though; I’m indifferent. I don’t have a career; I make books and music. That’s what I set out to do in my early twenties, and it has simply become my life, and will remain my life, regardless of whether I am able to cobble together some sort of artistic existence that allows me to work less for someone else and more for myself.
M: The characters do not come from very supportive families and they are determined to not make the same choices as their parents did. Do you feel like they had more empathy and understanding of their parents’ flaws, when faced with similar experiences?
N: Yes, that is certainly a storyline that develops in the book. It goes back to the idea of being a romantic. I’ve observed that people with a romantic temperament tend to come from unstable/unsupportive homes, and this causes them to embark on a somewhat desperate search for instant warmth, or perhaps a better word is electricity, a sense of positive connection with life, which many people get from family. If you don’t get that connection, it can result in a bit of mad quest for the basics. I think that’s in the book, on many levels, as is the way these emotional progressions, which are perceived to be completely individual and idiosyncratic by the romantic mind, are actually echoes within a larger family system. That’s a far less romantic way of seeing it, because autonomy is called into question, and autonomy–the ability the dream and create your life–is at the core of the romantic mind. More succinctly: it’s profoundly unsexy to repeat your parents’ mistakes.
M: Which books have you read, that really had a profound effect on you? Who are some of your favorite authors?
N: There are so many, that I’ll neglect to mention some of them. The first writer to really grab me and hit me over the head was Vonnegut, with Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. Carson McCullers’, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter was massive for me, as were Samuel Beckett’s, Molloy and Bukowski’s, Women. Richard Brautigan was also a revelation. Watermelon Sugar and The Abortion are some favorites. A love of these books, eventually led me to other great books from that period, most importantly Gravity’s Rainbow and One Hundred Years of Solitude, which for me is one of the most complete novels ever written. There have been others with its scope, obviously, but few are as accessible or imaginative, or as playful and fun, while still tackling life’s seriousness.
M: Your next book is a thriller. What is the title and can you give a synopsis of the book?
N: It’s called, The Promethean Fallacy. It’s about this young guy, who discovers he has a twin. They were separated at birth and have been studied their entire lives, and the people behind it are bad news, corporate monsters basically. The main character finds out other children like him have been killed, and goes on a revenge mission to take out the head honcho. Along the way, he falls in love, which complicates things, and makes him reconsider, but by then of course it’s too late. His crimes catch up to him, and he has to pay the price. After doing Poet’s Memorial, which is more character driven, I needed to do something plot-driven, and I’m pleased with the results.
M: Tell everyone where they can find your amazing novel, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund.
You can find it on Amazon, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XFGG584. The thriller is in the final editing stages and should be done by mid-July, so if anyone’s interested in that they can just DM me on Twitter (@distracted_monk) and I’ll send out a reminder when it hits the proverbial stands. Again, thanks so much.
There are few things that try your patience more, than waiting on hold for customer service. The same generic message is played every few minutes, followed up with elevator music, in the hopes that you will take a cyanide capsule and they don’t have to deal with you. Here’s a list of 10 messages they could use, in order to more creatively ignore you.
Captain John Yossarian in Catch-22, by Joseph Heller – One of my favorite anti-heroes of all time. I don’t know what Jesus would do, but I know exactly what Yossarian would do, and that is either drink or pretend to be insane. Yossarian is the Bombardier, in the Fighting 256th Squadron during WWII. He is a mischievous ladies man, who has a penchant for walking around naked and many other odd things, like not wearing his uniform at his own medal ceremony. Yossarian increasingly becomes all about self-preservation, as his his tour of duty keeps getting extended. He tries to get discharged on the grounds that he is insane. The psychiatrist, Sanderson, diagnosis him with, “a morbid aversion to dying” (I have that too) but Doc Daneeka tells him he can not possibly be insane because, “there is only one catch and that is Catch-22, which specifies that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of danger is the process of a rational mind.” Catch-22 becomes a catch phrase throughout the book, it is invoked as justification for everyone’s actions in any given situation. He becomes increasingly jaded, but does not give up entirely on helping others. Yossarian is the type of guy, who would help you move your couch, maybe not on the day you need it moved, but eventually he’ll come through for you.
Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Adventures of Tom Bombadil, by J.R.R. Tolkien – Tom is an obscure, but interesting character from LOTR. You won’t find him in Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy; he is only mentioned in the book. Tom is not a man, in fact, Tolkien does not say what he is precisely, except the oldest living being on Middle Earth. He claims to be older than Tree Beard. When his wife, Goldberry, is asked who he is, she only replies, “He is.” Everything about him is silly, from the way he dresses, to how he speaks in rhymes and sings in a whimsical manner. Even his name suggests he is harmless. I feel like Tolkien got a little lazy there. There are so many other cool names like, Gandalf, Sauron, Lord Elrond…it’s as if he ran out of good names and just said, “fuck it, I’m tired. I’m going with Tom.” He could have least spelled it, Thom. His simple name does not do him justice, because he is a being of extraordinary power. He is the one being in all of Middle Earth, who is unaffected by the ring. When Frodo puts the ring on and disappears, Tom can still see him. Tom flips the ring in the air and it disappears; then he opens his other hand and it reapers. His careless attitude is the reason the ring can not stay with him. The ring is nothing to him; he would probably just leave it by a tree and it would fall into the wrong hands. Tom teaches the hobbits a rhyme to summon him, which they use, when encountering the Barrow-wights, wraith like creatures, who live in burial mounds, creatures who also did not make it into the movies. Most people view Tom as an unnecessary character, who has no place in the story. I like him, because in a book that is very clearly divided between good and evil, Tom represents neutrality. He is unaffected by war, greed and pettiness. Mostly though, he is the embodiment of a nerd fun fact.
Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey – Chief Bromden or “Chief,” to use the stereotype he is known by in the novel, is perhaps the most lovable, yet shrewdest character in literature. In the novel, he is the narrator telling the story of Randle McMurphy, as opposed to the movie version. Chief pretends to be deaf and mute, keeping his head down, pushing a mop up and down the floors and as a result, he is able to observe everything, while no one is observing him. Throughout the novel, Chief is overlooked and underestimated, even though he has one of the most prominent backgrounds there, because he was a football star, war hero and son of a Chief of the Columbia Indians. Chief gains confidence, by McMurphy’s willingness to challenge the system and take on Nurse Ratched, so he reveals to him that he can actually speak and understand. I love Chief for his shrewdness, viewing the institution for what it really is, a combine. Like Chief, we’ve all entertained the idea at one time or other, of lifting something heavy and tossing it out the window, to make our escape out into the world. Sometimes keeping a low profile is the better option, instead of taking something head on, because one ends up in freedom, the other with a lobotomy.
Sir John Falstaff in King Henry IV, by William Shakespeare – He’s a fat, boisterous, cowardly drunk; those are his main hobbies. He’s also a bad influence on Prince Hal, future king of England. He gets Prince Hal to engage in petty crimes with him in the London underground. They hang out at the Boars Head Inn, which is the equivalent of a modern day Motel 6. There he drinks, brags and jokes with Prince Hal, making him forsake all of his duties. Falstaff is loud, but he’s also charismatic, with a zest for life, so Hal falls easily under his spell. When Hal later becomes King, he realizes he has to put his old life behind, which includes John. This is the part of the play, where I find Falstaff most endearing, after he is rejected by King Henry V, when he says to him, “I know thee not, old man.” After that, he becomes a melancholy figure, but I mostly remember him as the cowardly knight, who pretends to be dead on the battlefield, so he doesn’t have to fight, because getting killed with a sword sucks.
Sancho Panza in Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes – Sancho is just an everyday guy, who becomes the squire to the delusional Don Quixote. He’s perfectly sane, but delights in the delusions of Don Quixote, like fighting windmills that he thinks are dragons. The fact that he knows Don Quixote is delusional, but loves him anyway, makes him a very endearing figure. His name in Spanish means, “paunch.” (Also my middle name) Sancho rides around on a donkey, but Don Quixote thinks it’s a noble squire’s horse. As a joke, he is made a governor, by a Duke and Duchess they encounter of a fictitious island, the island of Barataria. He is a faithful and loyal sidekick, but only to a point, he’s not going to battle anyone, or take a whipping on the bum, in order to lift a curse from Don Quixote’s love, Dulcinea. His proverbs sound like a string of absurdities to his educated master, such as, “you’re worth as much as you have” and “it’s better to have God’s help than to get up early,” but by the end of the novel, he finds them to be wise and true. All of these qualities make Sancho a terrible squire, but a wonderful companion.
Vladimir & Estragon in Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett – This is probably the best play I ever read about nothing. In this theater of the absurd, Vladimir & Estragon are hobos, who are waiting on a man with one name, Godot, but they can’t quite remember the time and place they are supposed to meet him. It is not clear exactly who Godot is, given the use of one name and a vague description as to time and place, I like to think Godot is their pot dealer, but the more popular interpretation is that Godot is God. Estragon seems to spend most of his time trying to pull off his boots that are hurting his feet, because they don’t fit properly. Out of the two, Estragon is the bigger doofus and everything has to be constantly explained to him. At one point, Estragon gets so bored, he suggests hanging themselves, but they can’t be bothered with getting a rope or finding a suitable tree and Vladimir is worried about getting an erection, as said in this weird exchange. Vladimir: What do we do now while we are waiting? Estragon: What about hanging ourselves? V: It’d give us an erection. E: Let’s hang ourselves immediately! Vladimir is more philosophical and Estragon is caught up in the mundane. I love Estragon, because he’s like a pet goldfish with a short memory, swimming around in circles and always shouting, “nothing to be done.” Beckett doesn’t bother giving these characters a backstory or even a physical description and you find them more intriguing because of it.
Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole – Ignatius Reilly is the biggest jackass ever produced in literature. He’s sometimes a lovable jackass, but definitely always a hilarious one. Ignatius is a fat, pompous, egotistical, belching, lazy slob with bad hygiene. He is an arrogant Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Ignatius lives in New Orleans in a dilapidated house, with his mother and the two have a contentious relationship. “Mother doesn’t cook. She burns.” Ignatius is always complaining about the “closing of his valve” and he uses it as an excuse to get out of doing things. He’s delusional, yet idealistic and has a disdain for anything modern. His favorite thing is to go to the movies, mostly to complain about how indecent they are, which is really just a cover-up, for the fact that he fines them titillating. He creates havoc and chaos wherever he goes, which is mostly spurred by his desire to out due his rival, Myrna Minkoff, a girl he met in college, whom he regularly corresponds with. He has a stint of meaningless jobs, as a file clerk and a hot dog vendor. He’s so extremely narcissistic, that I can almost admire his lack of shame and complete disregard of what other people think. I am never good at thinking up insults on the spot, but Ignatius is always spot on. “Go and dangle your withered parts over the toilet.” He’s appalling and always reads a situation wrong, but just occasionally, his analysis is correct. “You can always tell employees of the government, by the vacancy which occupies the space, where other people have faces.” Words that were never more relevant than they are now.
Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy – Binx Bolling, (great porn name) whose real name is John, is a character that goes to the movies obsessively. He finds more meaning in movies and books than he does in real life. I first read this novel in college and could really identify with Binx, because I had a sort of detached view of the world and no real sense of self. The movie moments seemed more authentic than the real life moments and as a cinephile, I can often relate most things that happen to me, to a scene in a movie. Binx goes on a spiritual journey in order to escape what he calls the, “everydayness.” He gets involved with his first cousin, (this was back before match.com) Kate feels exactly like Binx, that her life is a malaise of meaningless events. At first I felt like he was just going through an identity crisis, but you find out later there is some real suffering there. He was wounded in Korea and possibly suffered from PTSD. His brother died when he was eight years old. What I love most about Binx, is that he’s a self-deprecating daydreamer.
Bartleby in Bartleby, the Scrivener, a short story by Herman Melville – In case you’re wondering what the hell a ‘Scrivener’ is, it’s basically a scribe or copyist and in Bartleby’s case, he copies legal documents. At first Bartleby is the ideal employee, he does a large volume of work with no complaints, until one day, inexplicably when asked to copy something, he says like a god damn baller, “I would prefer not to.” This made me giggle the first time I heard him say it, because instead of getting fired on the spot, the lawyer simply gives the task to another employee. Bartleby starts doing less and less work, until finally he is just staring at the wall, or out a window all day. One day the lawyer comes to the office on the weekend to find that Bartleby is living there. The astounding part, is that the lawyer is sympathetic and so passive, that rather than fire him, call the police and have him removed, he relocates his own office, leaving Bartleby there with new tenants, who want him out. The new tenants aren’t as sympathetic and the police come to haul him off to prison. I feel like Bartleby is a lost soul, who is depressed and has lost the will to live. He is self-isolated and doesn’t adhere to social norms. I think that already having a gloomy disposition, the repetition of doing the same thing day in and day out, pushed him into a deep depression. Melville gives very little detail about Bartleby. The other employees just have one word nicknames and he doesn’t even bother giving the name of the lawyer, which makes it seem like they are defined by their jobs, rather than who they are. They don’t have an identity. Bartleby is the quintessential drone, the cog in the machine that can not be differentiated from the other cogs.
Kilgore Trout in Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse-Five, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Timequake and Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut – Also, the ghost of Kilgore’s son is the narrator in Galapagos. Trout is a wonderfully weird character, who varies from story to story, but typically he is an unsuccessful science fiction author, whose work is largely published as filler material in pornographic magazines. Usually no one outside the main characters have ever heard of him, yet oddly, he’s always being invited to speak at lectures and attend festivals. He is always there to witness the dramatic events in the lives of others. In some of Vonnegut’s novels, he’s a father figure and mentor and in others, he’s an outright cad. I love Trout, because of his name and because he dismisses the grotesque, distorted, banal and perverted, all with a shoulder shrug. Trout is a dead pan comic, who is chalk full of uninspiring truisms like, “You were sick and now you’re well again and there’s work to do.” In reading these novels, you wonder if Trout is just an inside joke of Vonneguts’, like some kind of Andy Kaufman performance piece. Kilgore is irascible, reclusive, sarcastic and sometimes a sympathetic character. Most of all, Kilgore Trout is Kurt Vonnegut personified; he’s a great storyteller, who makes you laugh, by just raising an eyebrow.
There is nothing funnier than telling Kurt Vonnegut, that you’re going to stop payment on his check.
Trump or Nixon, the trivia game that is fun for the entire family. Which President, either Nixon and/or Trump is the correct answer. Warning: May burst into flames while you’re playing it.
I am a paranoid man with an inferiority complex.
My attorney general had to recuse himself.
I fired the head of the FBI.
I established the EPA.
I put a climate denier as head of the EPA.
My Vice President resigned.
I said, “I am not a crook.”
I tried to impede an FBI investigation against me.
I had the special prosecutor fired.
I had an actual list made up of my enemies.
I threatened an American city with martial law.
I taped all my conversations in the Oval Office.
I did not win the popular vote.
I secretly, without Congress knowing, bombed a country and thus destabilized that country for years.
I signed an executive order, banning certain Muslim countries from entering the United States.
I sabotaged a former President’s attempt to negotiate a peace treaty.
I am an orange, robot-monkey with tiny hands.
Since we live in the age of alternative facts and fake news, here are 20 of my own facts, that everyone should memorize and then use in a job interview.
Out of the office replies, let your coworkers know that you are out running through a field with cotton candy, while they are stuck in their cubicles, slowly dying. Sure, you can tell everyone that you’re out and when you’ll be back, but that’s boring. Here are 12, out of the office replies you can use, that will guarantee you will be out of the office for good.
If you’re not following me on Twitter, you hate America and unicorns too probably and for Christ sake, buy one of my books.