Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Aaron vs. Slanguage

Here's something Lynda Barry would call autobifictionography.

There are two siblings, a younger brother and an older brother, and they live in wholly different worlds. I guess, following that old axiom that we look for ways to distinguish ourselves, the younger brother obsesses with the physical and the older brother with the mental. One hangs with what some people would consider street toughs - I'd call them ordinary people - one hangs with theater students, writers: the bohemian street toughs, if you will.

Where the story diverges is that the older brother has chosen to become a writer: spends each day saturating in the language of every writer, today from Borges to Moody, yesterday from Cervantes to Theroux. And yet he is surrounded, everywhere he goes, by the prevailance and indefatiguable nature of slang. He finds himself so appalled by the malediction of the English that he cannot help but jump on the bandwagon to communicate. His own words - erudite, well-thought out, often prolix - they don't serve any intelligible purpose. They're not, to use the proper term, "real" enough.

[A short digression onto the terminology of "real," a word the younger brother uses with increasing inaccuracy. It begins with the asseration that there is one specific worldview (and only one). It ends with the conclusion that the older brother is so far distanced from this "real" world that he has created, for all purposes, a functioning fantasy world which despite serving as his reality, is no more than the bitter stuff of dreams after a rude awakening. The older brother researches "real" - by which I mean he looks it up at - and assumes the younger brother means that he is living a life of pretense, falsehood, or affectation - a world that is artificial and spurious. The older brother is not necessarily sure that the younger brother understands all this terminology (though he understands that he is quite smart), so he keeps his mouth shut.

What would it be like, he - the older brother - wonders, to live in this other world, his - the younger brother - world? Can two realities operate on the same plane without a constant grinding friction, a gradual wearing away of the seams, an abnegation of self sacrificed to the painful truth that there is in fact no reality at all?]

He coins the term "honeydew" for "pussy" which is in fact already slang for "vagina." He tries to get his friends to accept the British usage of "good on you." He starts saying "what's good" and attempts to respond with "no d" an online double entendre for both "no doubt" and the positive assertation of moving one's head up and down in a vertical line more than once. He even jokes around with the phrase "PCRN" - politely chortling right now - and the counterpart "PGRN" (guffawing). None of this actually changes his own reality or those of the people around him, none of this brings him closer to his younger brother. Most of it is in fact embarassing. These two worlds have no relationship to one another, and hence the two brothers have no relationship.

This would be a sad reality to face, were there such a thing as reality. God would shed tears, were there such a thing as God. These two brothers would mourn the loss, if either of them existed, at one time, in this world, together.

"Do You Realize (Version 2)," by The Flaming Lips. They really just need a great director, because most of their videos look like shit. They just sound so good.

I know I posted a link to their music video from The 'Bu, but Jeanette sent me back to them for Awesometown and now I learn that the good ol' boys of The Lonely Island will all be involved with SNL: Andy as cast, Yorma and Akiva as writers. All you really need in this world is a camera and a sense of humor. That really just boils down to eyes and ears.

boo-yeah to:
Ok Go and Death Cab For Cutie have both just put out amazing CDs. But the shout-out goes to Arlene, who has read the comic book Will and I have been working on and, with a few succinct words of praise, encouraged us to continue with that. If you or I are lucky enough to have children one day: always praise them.

MY LIFE (an update):
My manuscript stands at 147 pages right now. I am deep in revision mode. I will be submitting said manuscript to Iowa State (and through them George Saunders) in exactly four weeks. You can see samples of stuff I'm working on at Therefore, I'm learning how to work through my weaknesses. In order to address my need to produce at least a thousand-and-one words a day, expect to see posts here on a more regular basis. If anybody out there exists long enough to sneak a peek, that is.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Aaron vs. Consumer "Help"
You've all noticed it. The snide comments and sniggers from the executives that you'll never have the priviledge of overhearing through that impermeable glass ceiling... well, those you might not have noticed. But the signs, omens, portents and shards of disrespect falling like stalagmites upon us are clear: consumer help and the advertisements designed to guide us are - unsuprisingly - of no help at all.
Take this nugget of wisdom, for example, that stands resolute in a local McDonald's, defying grease stains and graffiti to announce: "All purchases will be packaged 'to go' 20 minutes before closing. This policy is for the the safety of our employees and customers. [sic]" I threw the [sic] in there just so you know that's word-for-word what's written, "thus" to be specific for the Latin (yes, someone has been studying grammar, and it is - sadly - me). Now, pay close attention to the latter portion of that cloying remark: "for the safety of." How does making everything "'to go'" help serve and protect the average McD's consumer? (Average, of course, being all of us.) No, this is an extra serving of lies to go with your fries, as much smoke blinding you as there is ice in your coke. I hope you enjoy this first of many qualassurpurps (quality assurance purposes), as Safire mentioned recently. In case I've lost you in all the parenthetical packaging of this paragraph: good, that's the point. Because what the hell are we even talking about, anyway?

Let's move on to further obsfucation: AOL, Belkin, &c. technical support. We actually broke a phone yesterday in the Riccio household, trying to get a goddamn human voice. Sorry for the strong language, but you aren't hearing the half of what foul curses spilled out during our electronic exodus. Forty days and forty nights are nothing compared to the pain and suffering of digital limbo. An example of conversation might go something like this - and I swear AOL's computer voice is smarmy and tongue-in-cheek:

"Now, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your computer," here I am, jamming on the 0 button. "Well, I could connect you to a human operator, but THAT'S... going to take a while. I, on the other hand, am ready to advise and assist you with the same capacity. If you'd like to continue my services, please say ye-" "No! No, absolutely not." I'm pressing 0 like a madman now, until finally... "I'm going to have to ask you a few questions first..." The pre-recorded voice has returned, and not only isn't it listening, but it's smug about that. Are we really that cocky, AOL, that we can assert our computers are as efficient as human help? Or have you outsourced so much that in fact you know computers are more effective, or at least more understandable? Either way, you still aren't telling us anything.

One final example of how you've managed to pervade our society without actually giving us anything. Check out this week's "The New Yorker" - the actual print copy. You'll notice immediately from the three inside and back covers that there's some redundancy. In fact, I would go so far to assert that every advertisement in the magazine is for Target, each drafted by a different artist as part of a special "project." The name of that project? Brainwashing, perhaps. Either way, there's nothing redeemable about the campaign: it's pure product placement, with only those hypnotic red target signs suffusing (and here's the 'meta'-art) all of New York City.

No matter where we turn, fiction or reality, we're going to come face-to-face with the same old campaigns and disassociative cognizance, the stuff brought about by these villanous (and for the most part unseen) CEOs. I group them all - yes, all - into the same category. Whether you're lying blatantly through non-informative messages, doing the same through sickening adverts or preventing us from ever contacting the human voice behind it all, advertising and the consumer "help" it promises is nothing but a wet dream, and one that we only think (through years of commerical programming) is going to be enjoyable.

HERE'S A MUSIC VIDEO! "A Million Ways," by OK Go!

boo-yeah to: Friends. I mean, where the heck would I be without people willing to help me revise a new bridge bidding system? Or people to hang out with on a lazy Wednesday afternoon? Or a sultry Friday evening? You guys are all so completely different, I don't think I could ever have a party and bring you all together to do something. But it sure would be interesting.

MY LIFE (an update): I have purpose, namely to get my portfolio of creative writing up to 150 pages, double spaced, so that I can get it entered in the Iowa contest (judged by one of my idols, George Saunders). I have a feeling that they'll be looking for stuff more extensive than what I've got, but I'll make up for it with some awesome diversity. At the least, I'll be writing a lot of stuff over the next month, and thankfully, I've got a muse back in my life. Let's hope that I can go completely bliztkreig on the keyboard (the one I haven't broken from frustration from two days worth of customer "service") and churn out some fantastic stuff.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Aaron vs. Fear

Fear is a dangerous thing. Some would say in fact, that it's the only thing to fear. There's fear of the physical, that you'll be hurt by the present, and there's mental fear, which is a dangerous expectation of the future. Today's blog aims to look at both of them, one through my own stupidity and one through the stupidity of others. It wouldn't be fair of me to criticize others without first confronting myself.

So let's call this section, "Return of the Vasovagal Synapse." Yes, while at the doctor's office today, getting my yearly physical, I, out of the blue, passed out. Well, not so much out of the blue. You see, I'm not good with needles - not the actual present pinching pain, but of what it could concievably feel like. And this year, I got not just the blood extraction (I use that terminology because it sounds more sinister), but re-upped my vaccinations to Hepatitis B and Tetanus.

Now the real fear of vaccinations goes back to a misguided attempt to innoculate me in Junior High School (thankfully any traumatic memories of infantile injections have been excised). Getting the cultures of Hepatitis B the first time involved moving to the highly sanitary and hygenic cafeteria of Booker T. Washington (in other words, not a more scummy location could you find: a basement school cookery). They also decided to use not needles, but air-guns, those highly pressurized forms of injection that don't leave visible marks on the skin, going as they do between blood vessels.

Not a terrible idea, but the sudden whoosh is not only frightening, but the shock of having your skin punctured (at least mentally) causes your arm to go numb about an hour later. This is the equivalent of dead legs you may have unfortunately recieved from bullies. Let's not ignore the fact either that these were not highly trained nurses doling out the medication, but rather people who looked suspiciously like scullery maids (sans skullcap/hair net). I would trust them with guns of any sort - especially medically designated ones - less than some of the "choicer" members of the NRA. You know, the ones who sleep fondling their piece.

Back on track, they were not. They were missing the places in our shoulders and hitting us in very uncomplimentary ways, ways that wracked our muscles with spasms and other such pain. Repeat this vivid imagery all three rounds of the immunization process, right arm, left arm, right.

Now, flash forward to me getting the dreaded Hepatitis, once more in the right, and right after getting a Tetanus shot in my left, of which I'm told, "This will hurt tomorrow." So really, don't you expect the fear to just ooze between my pores, track down between my eyes and curl its venom down my body like a snake? Sorry, creative writer, poetic licence to kill and all that jazz. As she stabs me a third time, I feel the pressure spreading through my whole body and I manage to stammer something incoherent, but along the lines of, "I'm going to pass out." Which I did.

Now, I'm not proud of this weakness, but admit it: of all the places to pass out, a doctor's office is probably the most appropriate. They had me back on my feet in no time, by which I mean, I immediately recovered and they gave me sips of water while telling me to lean back, and not in the Fat Joe sense. They may have suggested I pull up my pants tho', considering we'd just finished the physical examination. And so, for the fourth time in my life, I've had what's called a vasovagal synapse, which is really just doctorese for "you passed out." It's not seriously dangerous to my health, nothing to be concerned about, I just need to literally chill out more with unexpected situations.

I know I've gone on for a long time, but I wanted to make sure I'd properly abased my own psychological fear so that I could move on to the physical stupidity people have over fear. There's a lawsuit in the works against the NYPD, in order to get them to stop searching people's bags. I'm sorry, but the people who have filed claims say that they are now afraid to travel the subway system because they don't want their rights violated. Not because the searches are like a needle-in-a-haystack in their effectivity. Not because there's discrimination going on. But because they refuse to let police officers search their bags. Officers, I might add, that are at least making some people feel safer. What are these people so ashamed of having in their bags? Dead babies? I'm sorry, but just as the only thing we must fear is fear itself, the only people who have something to hide are people with something to hide.

Dennis Leary, I feel, did not do a good enough job shamelessly self-promoting his goods and the goods of those whom he likes. Therefore, I'm pumping up the joy of
Rescue Me, the firehouse drama I simply can't get enough of. Go watch it on FX, Wednesday nights at 10:00. And then catch Nip/Tuck when it replaces Rescue Me on the line-up. And then stick around, 'cause The Shield will be back.

boo-yeah to:
Air conditioning. I don't have it, but man, I wish I did. And lest this be a "careful what you wish for" moment, I'm talking about the kind of air-conditioning I can turn on and off. Not one that follows me around like a bitter raincloud, keeping me perma-chilled.

Trouble," by Coldplay. I wish I could make "Fix You" look as good as "Trouble" or "The Scientist" or even "Yellow" which featured the same damn walking, but at least was taken in entirely one shot, rigged to look a certain way as the sun just rises in the background. Simple is great, but at least have an artistic vision that's more than just pandering to your audience.

MY LIFE (an update):
Once more, I think I've covered my life pretty well above. But I am glad that my ex is willing to talk to me again, that it's at least possible for us to be friends. I don't like burning bridges and I don't like hurting people. It's good to know that life does in fact go on, even if it sometimes continues in very odd patterns that involve everyone I know apparently moving into my neighborhood.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Aaron vs. Belligerent Drunks

Well, goodness: this is a blog I never thought I'd be writing. I'm a recreational drinker, the bastard child of the social stigma stating we can only hang out if we're getting something done. That something has swung drastically from the physical of something like dancing to the obesity-inspired culture of American drinkers. Now, before we go any further, let me stress that this is not vindictive against bars, bar denizens, bar inhabitants, &c. While that may have at one time been my stance during the confusing time of my life when I was trying to find
a column's (raspy) voice, I now appreciate the effects of some good libations.

However, and this being the point, I'm terrified of what might happen to me when I get perhaps a little too happy. I've seen the effects firsthand, and while some people, like my good pal Artie, might be gentle old men obsessed with buying people jukebox requests, others, like a certain drunken "film" critic run a little long on bullshit and a little short on patience. And what kind of drunk am I? It'd be hard to tell, considering that the few times I've been drunk enough to lose control of my body, I've also lost control of my memory - and that's a frightening thing for a writer, since memory is all I've got.

But let's get back to me, in a bar, specifically the Blarney Cove (which I have cleverly disguised linguistically in order to preserve it for myself). I'm drinking Killians, and I am having a blast, mainly because I'm with the girl that I like, on a date, and it would take very little to make me happy at that moment. And yet, there are I am, filled with intoxicating chemicals anyway. If you're looking for embarassing blackmail stuff, apologies, I didn't do anything I'm ashamed of at this point. But it's around this moment that my mind starts going blank: the return trip from Union Square (by which point, I am probably filled with not only the warm fuzzies but the fuzzies that are complementary to six beers).

Apparently, arriving home, I was coherent, somewhat sober and carrying on conversation. And after sleeping for about an hour, I transformed into a bellicose Riccio, rambling on about something or other to my poor father. Now, one of my oldest friends, Colin, has assured me that had any of you been there, it would've been hilarious, so I'm going to take this as proof that I am a gentle giant, a non-belligerent drunk, one who would not so much as even politely suggest a film review, let alone foist them upon you.

In summary, drinking good, even if the side-effects can be wildly unpredictable for some. It's a social skill we can't really afford to be without, and there's much to be said for the lack of inhibitions it brings about. You find me a game of
beer pong (beirut) and I'll be there. Until then, I guess I'll just have to increase my tolerance to be absolutely sure. Cheers!

Having already tried to advertise "The 'Bu" and "Kicked in the Nuts," I now draw your attention to the fantastic
Channel 102. This is the NY branch of Channel 101, and what it does is gives amateur filmmakers the opportunity to cast me (and people like me) in comedic five-minute pilots that will be viewed and voted on at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Those that make it are turned into "series" - by which I mean those directors can keep producing monthly episodes until their audience share gets them cancelled. You really have to check it out, and not just so that you can cast me in something.

boo-yeah to:
Artie. He's one of the random people Jeanette and I ran into, and since she hasn't sung praises to him yet, I will. This is a man with a fine taste in old music and a fine sense for hitting on large groups of lesbians, or at least fine choice in friends with slightly more libido (though just as little chance).

Scent Of A Robot," by Pete Miser

MY LIFE (an update):
Considering how totally this blog was about me, you really shouldn't need any update to put two and two together. Otherwise, fall back on your basic calculus: "you+me = us." Now, cryptically, at best I could only assemble the word "ume," but I'm not really going to let that bother me. K? Umek? On an unrelated acronymical route: PCRN (politely chortling right now), the word that's practically porn is here to take the world by storm. Use it in all your abbreviated conversations from now on and u wil b 2 kul.