Sunday, November 25, 2001

Jimmy and his Noise.

Jimmy was pretty dumb in the head, but one day he thought he had come up with an idea. He figured out how to make this really funny noise with his mouth, and he'd keep himself amused for hours making this sound. Sometimes he'd do it in front of a mirror so he could watch how funny looking he was when he made this funny sound (he was very funny looking), and sometimes he'd just make this sound while he was laying in bed at night trying to fall asleep. But this one day he got an idea of how to put this really funny noise to good use. He figured that if he could get on Color Television and make that noise (which Jimmy called "The Noise"), it would amuse the whole world. People all over would hear it and maybe even learn how to make The Noise themselves and teach it to others that weren't watching Television at the time, and this would bring about World Peace. Who could fight when they're amused and making funny noises with their mouths, while their "enemies" are doing the same thing? Jimmy was an idealist.

Now Jimmy was dumb, but he wasn't stupid. At least not really really really stupid. When he wasn't sniffing glue. So he went right out and hired a lawyer to patent the mouth noise process (US Pat. No. 38464537839), and trademarked the phrase The Noise® and World Peace®, and then set out to find a Color Television camera to get in front of.

The first camera he found was in an alleyway near his house. The camera had a big 7 on the side of it, and a Television newsreading `personality' in front of it. They were shooting a made-for-Television-news documentary about the dangers of sniffing wallpaper paste and drinking BBQ sauce. Jimmy leaped in front of the camera and made The Noise. Everybody laughed hysterically, even the Television `personality', who was demonstrating how to drink BBQ sauce at the time. She was laffing so hard that she shot BBQ sauce out of her nose and mouth. And her ears too. The camera man fell over with his camera, whereupon it exploded and burst into flames, burning and scarring his face permanently, but still he kept laffing. To this day, he can't even tell the story about how his face became horribly disfigured without laughing uncontrollably. Tragically, however, the videotape didn't survive the explosion, so The Noise never aired.

The next day Jimmy was sniffing glue and watching Color Television, and he saw a live segment being aired from a local bingo hall. For some reason that was the most exciting thing going on in town at that time, so that's what they had to put on Television. It wasn't too far away so Jimmy walked over there, ready to thrust World Peace® on the world. He asked the camera people if he could make a funny noise on Color Television, and they said yes, but he'd have to wait until a commercial for cream corn had finished. Jimmy decided to spend this extra time warming up the important muscles of the body. He let loose with a practice Noise, and out of nowhere a tiger that had escaped from the zoo jumped on Jimmy and was about to eat him alive, except that it was frightened away by the sound of the entire bingo hall laughing. Eventually somebody got enough composure to call the police. By the time the cop showed up, the tiger was long gone, so he shot some woman in the leg instead. They had to cancel bingo because the guy who reads off the pingpong balls couldn't stop laffing. After all that, they decided they didn't want Jimmy to make his Noise anymore, lest it attract more angry tigers. Jimmy left unhurt, but saddened.

A couple of days later it was Halloween, and Jimmy dressed up as the Devil and went trick or treating alone, because he had no friends. Eventually he ended up at a weird church that was open because it was also Sunday, in addition to being Halloween. It was the First Church of Televangelism. There was a preacherman with a gold suit and a solid gold bow tie, and they had television cameras so they could broadcast his ramblings and tongue-speakings to all the backward people of the world on UHF. The preacherman, who's name also happened to be Jimmy, was the most popular fanatical nutcase in the world, and there he was preaching to an audience and the Color Television cameras, for broadcast the next week. Now was Jimmy's chance.

As Jimmy walked up to the pulpit in his Devil costume, people gasped. For some reason they thought he was the real Devil because they didn't notice the rubberband that held the mask on his face, and they'd forgotten that it was Halloween. Jimmy jumped in front of the cameras and made The Noise.

There was a shocked few seconds, and then everyone started laughing and cheering, falling in the aisles and crying with joy. The cameras had caught it all on videotape. Before long, the entire congregation was jumping on the stage, pledging their allegiance to the Devil and promising their souls and children to the Dark Side. When the show went to air the next week, they had edited out the part with Jimmy in the Devil costume. They didn't feel it fit the format of the show.

On his way home he walked through the alleyway where they had been shooting the wallpaper paste and BBQ sauce documentary, and saw they had discarded the tub of wallpaper paste there. So he took it home and had eaten all of it by the time the sun came up.

He stayed in bed a week after that, and by then the president, who was named Big Brother, was coming to town to make a speech about how we need to have a big war to help his upcoming re-election. Jimmy had realized a few things during his wallpaper paste induced coma. One of those things was that he needed to get his Noise on Color Television before a war broke out, because The Noise was the only thing that could stop it. He also had decided that he would have to spread the word on live Television so that they couldn't edit it out. So how better to spread the word than to steal the limelight from the President?

He took the bus to where the President was going to be talking. He got there early so he hung around, thinking about how great it was going to be. How he would show the world that war wasn't necessary, and how he would single-handedly usher in a new era of peace and all that kind of crap. But he must have been thinking these things too hard, because the Secret Service's mind reading machine detected too much thinking about peace and love, and Jimmy was quickly apprehended, tortured and shot to death. It was reported in the media that he was really there to assassinate the President, and so nobody cried at his funeral.

Bonefish Sam has won countless awards for literature.

Jimmy Plays the Piano.

"Jimmy, just what are you doing?" his mom said.

"Guh, uh, I'm just playin' the piano, that's all." Jimmy said.

"Jimmy," his mother repied, "that ain't no piano!"

"I... I guess you're right."

Bonefish Sam has won countless awards for literature.

Friday, July 6, 2001

Dinosaurs Still Rule the Earth (by Ben Kline)

Simply by noticing the sheer amount of fermented dinosaur blood involved in the everyday processes of so-called-civilization, you can begin to hear my argument. The miracle of Miracle Whip, the twinkle in a Twinkie, wall to wall carpeting and the Lycra in your undies, Tupperware and/or lipstick, asphalt and/or condoms.

Okay so it was mostly all the ferns, bacterium, seaweed an' shit that composted into our trinity of crude, coal and "natural" gas, but evidently it's only the top of the food chain that matters, so whenever I see an S.U.V. barreling by the neighborhood cul-de-sac, it's a snortin' stompin' brontosaurus eatin' T-rex that I envision. Ice ages of pressure and heat that only magma from the center of the earth could produce, transmogrifying blood, bones and bryophytes into rich Texas tea.

Seemingly endless stretches of black asphalt akin to rivers of coagulated blood. Plastic, oh glorious plastic, you are skin. Coal is petrified bone; the natural gas was passed from their ass. Insects gather in the halo of wasted light, shining bright into a deserted night, a sacrifice. Praise Ford, Lee Iacocca for President, please let the car take me there. Steel cages envelope the flesh, solid sliding ka-chunk of a mini-van door slammed shut by the shin guard clad youth, who aspires to own his own someday. Strapping his strapping wee ass into the Naugahyde enveloped pew with a nylon seatbelt at the command of his mother, who is comforted by the sounds of automatic locks. A feeling of security is achieved with two thousand pounds of steel between her and all those other damned people on the road. Sixty-Five miles an hour on a highway maintained by our government and we'll buy whatever the hell we can to feel assured of life after driving. Who the hell cares about a little warming of the globe anyway, I gotta git my kid to soccer.

Gasoline is cheaper than milk. The radio commercial is telling you not to worry, to ignore the fire in your kitchen, to gaze upon the glorious silicone breast that is Pepsi, history is on your side; progress.

There was a time in between the Jurassic and this, the second coming where mammals of the sapiens sort lived without the aid of fire from beneath the ground, but right around the birth of queen-to-be Victoria, machines first made their presence known, and from corn combine to the computer their march has hitherto run ceaselessly, unendingly. John Henry died; the steam drill ran on. Assuredly as coal churned in its belly, Dick Cheney's new pacemaker ensures the mile long trains of the cold black coal mined from train lengths beneath the deepest tree root will continue to choo-choo along to the blazing power plants, power plants that measure their consumption with the t.l.a. (three letter acronym) t.p.h. (tons per hour). Dick Cheney is from Wyoming; Wyoming is one big-ass cube of coal.

With, at last I heard, thirty years left to assuage environmental catastrophe of the planetary level, it might be time to start riding your bike to soccer, but since, at the other last hearing, you only have to accept some Christ fella into your pacemaker in order to hop the bandwagon offa this merry-go-round, why worry about 110 degree weather? I mean really, I'll be as dead as the stegosaurus that provided the electricity for this essay by the time anything really bad happens. I have a creepy feeling that heaven is just right up there on the dark side of the moon. All the rich popular pretty people who went to seminary class before the sun rose get to go when they're around 80 or whatever, they get an angel pill that keeps `em alive forever. The whole bit: virgins, ambrosia, harp music and Elvis, all under pressurized geodesic domes. The conspiracy isn't that we didn't go to the moon at all, it's that we quit going after like, 15 missions. Don't worry; everything that the rich guys decide to do over golf or in some secret society is part of the plan. God made dinosaurs, right? On purpose even...

The sheer insanity of painted lines and flashing colored lights guiding this chimpanzee with a handgun. Piloting all that inertia with a rack and pinion steering wheel and friction brakes. "Hands at ten and two, defensive driving now people!" Fuckin' glorified go-karts lumbering through the urban jungle. Power lines draped like vines and canyon walls of concrete. The sheer flatulent waste of the terrible lizards married to the unthinking hegemony of an ant colony.

Dinosaurs rule the earth. In spirit, as we pilot steel shells of their armor plated ghosts, running off the actual molecules of their blood. Politically, progress is the same to a modern republican as it was to Queen Victoria, apparently to not change our wasteful culture at all. Like a CD in a microwave, humanity is burning up its terrarium from the inside out. Geologically three seconds is all the time humans have been here, let's see if we can't let the dinosaurs continued rule wipe us out as well.

Ben Kline has the nicest garden in town.

Sunday, July 1, 2001

A Cigar, In Japan, With You (by Scott VanDusen)

WHoo! What at time to be around I must declare.


So hey goddamn this is Scott and what do you know here I am again sitting on my blue chair I stole from the sodaigomi (large general garbage pile) facing my computer on a saturday night again. (I do believe we can perceive a pattern here, capn). I've spent almost the entire day playing old school video games (Blockout to be exact) and listening to internet radio (! Oh yeah you CAN be 14 years old twice!). But now it is time to actually do something PRODUCTIVE and all that.

You know, ever since the previous magazine that I used to write these cigar reviews for evaporated, I always thought, well, that's it you know. Over and out the end of an era so long thanks for everything yadayadayada but LIKE THE PHOENIX I RISE. Yeah right. More like the Millennium Falcon which never quite seems to make that jump into hyperspace, just that wa wa waaaaaaa sound....

Ok ok ok ok enough of this TALK. Entirely too academic. For I am certain that ears such as yours are burning with the past and the future now you know more now you know less and everything in motion making you a little bit ill but hell it will. Outside the evening light has stained the sky with powder burns and mascara laden cotton balls. After 5 days of continual rain, the air blankets the city heavy and still. The sparrows are silent, fluorescent lights flicker across the street, the city settles down to shows about eating, shows about cooking- I swear the ONLY thing on Japanese TV these days are these culinary programs which make me want to turn bulemic. You know, I never really noticed the parallel between food and sex, but they certainly are related, are they not? What could be more frustrating than watching these rich skinny Japanese robots consume expensive and impossible dishes, while my sink is filled with garbage the fridge is filled with garbage even the garbage can... well you know.... and all the flirting and double edged sentences flying back and forth, it's no wonder it's no surprise that we are so impossibly hungry.

Well let's skip the stone and gnaw the bone and allow me to introduce myself. Wait, already did that. Ok HEY I KNOW I'LL TALK ABOUT THE FAT CIGAR I AM ABOUT TO SHOVE IN MY FACE. How about that? Ha ha ha ha ha ah goddamn sometimes I make myself chortle. CHORTLE CHORTLE. Yeah ok anyway here is the Cigar; It's a "Cabanas". That's all that I know! And the fucking thing has got to be the John Holmes of cigars. I don't know WHO chose this thing for me to review (Mr. Stivers, paging Mr. Stivers...) but FUCKINGHELL this thing is WAY more than any NORMAL person needs. In fact, you may consider me to be a bit of a WUSS, but I have decided to CUT the thing in half! Save some for later. After all, it is my LAST cigar until I head off to the states in a couple of weeks, and you know I'm going to want SOMETHING to smoke on the shinkansen...

So before you can say "nuclear missile defense strategy is fucking DUMB AS FUCK but HEY it's more money for LOCKHEED", this cigar has been snipped and lit and I'm a puffin daddy. It's allright. Considering that this thing cost 5 bucks, but I get to smoke it TWICE as it were, it's gotta be the BARGAIN of the century. Actually, I wonder how big the biggest cigar on earth ever made is/was? If anyone knows, EMAIL me at and I will MENTION you in the next issue! HEy Look at ME! WHoo deeee doooooooo!!!

Alright it's burning and the wine the WINE children the WINE is, who coulda guessed, FROM CALIFORNIA!! I hear that california's annual GDP exceeds that of FRANCE, BTW. And the wine ain't that bad. Too bad California is such a shitty place. No offense, mom. But CHEAP WINE is sometimes the only option, and as I have no money at all, Franzia californian red is a o k.

While I was hacking out that last sentence, it started POURING again outside. "Fall rain fall rain beautiful rain don't disturb me beautiful rain ohhh come (never come) ohhh come to me beautiful rain" Checkitout the night before last, at about 4:30 in the morning, it was THUNDERIN And a LIGHTNINTINININN and I coulda swore one of those explosions happened RIGHT OVER MY APARTMENT. Shook the whole building, left my hair standing on end, and was really erotic! LOVE those thunderstorms! Like cross tops for the soul. Maybe I should move to the desert, Arizona or something and build a teepee and wait for the rain! But hang on, do they have cable modem access in the Air-uh-zona desert yet? Maybe my friendly TIME WARNER AT&T CNN sales rep can help me out! HERE's MY MONEY just KEEP me away from those NASTY pornograffers and those SCARY hackers and CONTROVERSIAL sites! Yep! Walled Garden where NOBODY can see out but EVERYONE ELSE can see in HANG ON WAIT WHAT THE GODDAMN!

So this cigar is right on. It sure makes me wish that I could be at a Pavement show though. You know. Maybe sing along with boys that are dying on these streets or something. Or on a road trip to see Neil Young in the Gorge high on mushrooms under a full moon with THIS VERY CIGAR. But that's a million miles away, for time is the greatest distance between two places. Maybe instead I'll put on some TS Elliot reading TS ELLIOT and take a bath with this very bottle of wine... I dunno though. Smoking a cigar in the bathtub would kinda suck, wouldn't it. Aww fuckit maybe I'll just talk about Japan for those that are listening:

And Here's The News In Japan; I'm sure everyone heard about that guy that went into an elementary school in Osaka a couple of weeks ago with two cutting knives, slashed up more than 20 1st and 2nd graders. Sad sad sad. Evidently, the guy that did it was whacked out on 20 times the normal dosage of antipsychotic drugs and had a history of schizophrenia. The guy's father was interviewed, he said something like "I have no son. I disowned him 25 years ago" Hmmmm. Notice any connection? So many of these mass murderers had shitty relationships with their parents. I say, put the parents on trial WITH the kids. Now There's an Idea. That way we could have BOTH Bush Jr. AND Senior fry for failing to comply with the Kyoto accord, failure to EVER pardon anyone on death row no matter HOW fucked up the actual trial was, failure to do ANYTHING but bend the people of America OVER for the Military Industrial Complex. (whoo there horse slow it down! Jeez I think I got a little bit of pent up HOSTILITY going on over here... sorry about that. Its just that I am so sick of BUSH and the fact that all I can do to change anything is sit around and bitch and smoke and drink and listen to old school punk rock. Hmmmm depressing.

Oh yeah. The cigar. Keen.

Lessee what else is going on over here in Japan? Well, a guy I know is getting extradited for taking "voyeuristic" photos. He got caught trying to snap a photo of a 13 year old girl in the little girls room. Thing is, I never thought of this guy as being THAT fucked in the head, you know? I mean, I had helped him fix his computer and he seemed like an allright guy and all that, but I guess you never know, do you...

Here's more fun. My girlfriend lives down in Tokyo, on the second story of an apartment. The other night she calls me at 2 in the morning because someone is trying to CLIMB UP onto her balcony. She hears this racket, looks out the back window and there is this arm and head visible through the hanging laundry. She screams and slams the window shut and calls the police, who upon arriving, cannot BELIEVE that anyone could actually CLIMB that wall (something like 15 feet up!). They attributed the attempt to some pervert after her underwear.

Her best friend, this girl from Australia, has similar stories of sexual harassment. Allegedly, since she came to Japan 4 months ago, she has had no less than 3 guys flash her in public. One was masturbating behind her as she was walking home. I mean, what the fuck? I'm beginning to become one of those reverse misogynists. As In, MEN are SHIT. The more I think about it, the more I am forced to conclude that the MAJORITY of these murders and assaults and wars and shit are all perpetrated by men. What do you think? I mean, come on do you think that the desert storm trading card "carpet bombing" would have ever gone to the press if a woman was in charge? I dunno. Maybe. But I doubt it.

Heavy heavy falls the night and at least the internet radio person has decided to put on that sleepy dreamy version of yo la tengo's sugarcube. Maybe I should relax more, you know ENJOY this cigar these wisps and fragments of truth before they disappear like socks, unnoticed and simple. "And in evenings in spring the windows and doors were open and the music came outdoors. Sometimes, all the lights would go out, except for a large chandelier they hung from the ceiling. Couples would come outside, to the relative privacy of the alleyway. You could see them, kissing behind ash pits and telephone poles. Such was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure..." Aw shit I guess all I really need is Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, and a pesto pizza with roasted garlic...

So HEY kids, I'm going to wrap this up and torch it. Dig? I hope that my ramblings were somewhat coherent. So hard to drink the coffee through the 'stash, as someone said.

Optic Nerve #7 by Adrian Tomine - Review (by Khris Soden)

Adrian Tomine, only in his mid-twenties, has solidly established himself as one of the best comics storytellers to come out of the last decade with his issues of Optic Nerve. Anyone familiar with his work, however, will note that he really isn't a storyteller, per se, but rather an elaborate illustrator of segments in time. Tomine's strongest talent has always been in his ability to represent a character in a brief segment of their lives, expressing complex emotions or providing a voyeuristic view of an episode from the days of trendy men and women. At their best, these "slice of life" stories mimic our own lives, in the sense that events flow into one another, and nothing carries the beginning-middle-and-ending structure of most fiction. However, over the course of the past two issues, Tomine has tried to evolve and diversify his story-telling style by expanding his pieces to full comic book length and incorporating more traditional story-telling elements, such as the aforementioned plot structuring, as well as a greater reliance on themes. These two most recent issues, typical of most works of artists in experimental stages, have been a bit of a mix between success and failure. This brings us to his most recent issue, a whole issue devoted to the story "Summer Blonde".

(Here, I feel it's necessary to point out that this issue was first printed in June of 2000. Sadly, in the world of so-called "alternative comics", this still qualifies it as "new".)

"Summer Blonde" is the story of a very un-Hollywood love triangle, involving a passive-aggressive introvert named Neil, a player named Carlo, and their interest, the 20-year-old Vanessa. The story begins with Carlo introducing himself as the new tenant in Neil's apartment building. Even in this opening theme, Tomine is playing with themes, visually and metaphorically; Carlo and Neil, complete opposites in personality, live in apartments on the opposite sides of the building's plaza, and while Carlo stands in the open sunlight, Neil stays inside the seclusion of his doorway. Subtlety like this is one of Tomine's strong points, but in this story, as opposed to previous ones, Tomine doesn't take the time to develop his characters into complex personalities. Through a succession of scenes that feel a little rushed, we learn that Neil works in the personals section of a weekly paper, doing layout for the "hooker ads"; that he frequents the greeting card store where Vanessa works, solely for the brief conversation that occurs between them during retail transactions; and we learn that he has trouble feeling comfortable around members of the opposite sex because his psychologist mentions it during a visit. Nothing at all is subtle about these scenes, and sadly, this is about the most development we see in Neil's character. Worse still, Neil is the most fully-fleshed character, somewhat coming off as a more realistically rendered Jimmy Corrigan (there's even a scene of Neil calling a personals ad, then halfway through apologizing for leaving the message in the first place, and requesting that the listener disregard the call entirely). Shortly after these scenes, Carlo and Vanessa meet, and Neil, being the neighbor across the way, is privy to most of the events that ensue after that, sometimes even acting as a catalyst.

The most interesting aspect of the story, to me, is Tomine's explorations on the different aspects of lust and desire. Carlo is an extrovert and a ladies' man who, it seems, can find the ways and means to fulfill any of his desires, but constantly suffers from the boredom of obtainability. Neil is, as mentioned before, the exact opposite, filled with lust and loneliness but completely unable to make any headway in the direction of what he wants. Vanessa, who comes across almost as a token placeholder, embodies the middle ground: open to any whims, and wanting to fulfill them all, but being unable to have everything she wants. The interplay between the mores of the characters is interesting, but static. By the end, everyone has changed or embodied their outlook in one way or another, but typical of Tomine's work, nothing feels fully resolved. The lack of resolution may come off as a fault to those unfamiliar with his pieces, but, as with his earlier work, it remains true to the way in which life unfolds.

Visually, Tomine is still amazing. His obvious strength lies in his rendering of figures and faces, although any portrayal of action is disturbingly stiff. Backgrounds convey the exact amount of sense of place that is needed, without miring the layout with too much detail. Although the story is paced too fast, jumping from scene to scene, visually the transitions are smooth and consistently well-planned. When it comes to the pictures, the gentleman knows exactly what he's doing.

In short, it seems that Tomine is still experimenting, and trying to push out farther in his attempts to convey and organically dissect experiences. Compared to other pieces he's done, this is flawed (especially when held against "Hawaiian Vacation"), but still worth reading. However, this is probably one of the best single issues of a comic to pick up if you've never read an intelligently written comic before.

Grade: 10th and older.

Khris is a real comic artist.

Kids Vs. The Ice Cream Man. (by the Tuna Can Man)

Well, back in White Plains, New York we had an ice cream man who used to come around the neighborhood for years. We bought ice cream from him when I was a kid and my mom bought ice cream from him when she was a kid. His name was Joe. Joe the Good Humor Ice Cream man. And we just loved him, the whole projects just loved him. He was a great guy.

I remember one particular afternoon when we were all hanging out. It was kind of a hot summer day, and out of nowhere we hear the ice cream truck jingle, but it was a different type of jingle than Joe's ice cream truck. We looked and here came a totally different ice cream truck coming up the road in front of my building, 11 Fisher. We all looked at one another. There was about 20 or 30 of us guys, all about 10, 11, 12, 13 years old, and we all said, "What the hell is this, some sort of fake ice cream man?" So they pull up and we say "Well, let's go check this shit out." So really skeptically we all go walking up to this ice cream truck and it was two white guys in it, and apparently they were brothers. They were pretty young, maybe in their mid-20's. They were like, "Hey boys and girls! Wanna buy some ice cream?" And instantly we just start giving them shit. We're like, "You're not Joe." And they say, "No, we're not Joe, but we're going to start coming around too. Here, we'll even give you some sample ice cream." And we're like, "Aw, fuck you. Get outta here. You're a fake ice cream man! This is Joe's turf." And the guys were saying, "Oh, come on, we're going to give you some free ice cream. We'll come through here along with Joe, there's no problem with it."

We didn't let up on them, "Fuck you, get the hell outta here fake ice cream man. Fake ice cream man!" Everyone starts joining in yelling and harassing these guys. Well, one of the brothers gets pretty pissed off and says, "Alright, you don't need to get rude about it." We're just not letting up. "Get outta here fake ice cream man! Get outta here! Fuck you!" And the guy swings the door open on his ice cream truck and he's like, "I've had about enough of you kids, y'all shut up!" And right at that time there was a girl named Felicia. She was only about 12 or 13 years old, but for a girl she stood about six feet tall and she was about 200 pounds, and she snatched this white guy straight out of the ice cream truck and pinned him up against it. Timothy, who was also about 12 but again stood about 5' 11 and was strong as an ox, runs up and jaws the guy, punches him right in the jaw. Just knocks him out, boom. The guy had enough sense to crawl back to the door he opened and up the steps leading up into the truck and he passed out instantly. And we all start rocking the ice cream truck, and we're still screaming, "Get outta here, fake ice cream man! This is Joe's turf! Get outta here!"

The one brother grabbed the other brother and was trying to drag him into the truck while we're throwing things at them, bottles and rocks. He manages to get the truck started and starts to drive off, and there's a little hill outside the projects, you have to go up a slight incline to get out from the front of my building. So we start chasing the truck, and same thing, still yelling, "Fuck you fake ice cream man! Get outta here!" And I picked up a brick and I launched it at the truck's back window, and cracked it in a spiderweb pattern. We chased it up the hill and the truck blew the red light and just took off out of our neighborhood, and within minutes we heard the police cars approaching, so we all ran and hid, ran back upstairs.

Once we got upstairs after about an hour or so everyone changed their clothes, and even I came back outside, and we were hanging out. "Yeah, we beat up the fake ice cream man! Alright! Fuck him! If he comes back we're gonna give him some more!" So about 40 minutes later, Joe actually pulls up. Feeling all proud of ourselves, we all go down to Joe's truck and say, "Hey, Joe, we beat up this fake ice cream man that came around." Joe, he's an elderly white guy at this time. He's like, "Yeah, I heard fellas. Listen, thanks but next time let me handle it." And we're like, "Ah hell, Joe, we're just looking out for you, this is your turf, you've been coming around here for years, we ain't letting nobody else come around the hood and take away your business." And he said, "Well, I appreciate it but next time just let me take care of it."

Sure enough, we never did see those guys again, they never came back down there obviously. In fact I never saw them anywhere in White Plains after that. Kinda funny, it was like they gave up the ice cream business after one day thanks to us. Not even the hardest criminal probably ever beat up the ice cream man, but sure enough, my buddies and I did.

The Tuna Can Man is a crazy backwoods isolationist from White Plains, NY.

Friday, June 1, 2001

Play This Funky Music, White Boys! Part 1: To The Extreme (by Shannon L. Grisso)

I know something about you.

It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter if you are out of touch with today's music scene. It doesn't even really matter if you are out of touch with reality, even. No matter your background; no matter your current situation; no matter whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever, whyever or however you are, I know for sure that you know who Vanilla Ice is.

I mean, let's face it - celebrities come and go, most just flickering in the public eye for their allotted fifteen minutes before they disappear. But every once in a while, a certain celeb comes along who so captivates all aspects of pop culture that they are instantly - and eternally - enshrined in our culture's collective unconscious. We as a society know such people, and that is how I know that you know Ice. We all know Vanilla Ice!

Or should I say, we all think we know Vanilla Ice? Because for all the people who know the man, a disappointing lack of people actually know anything about his art. So you may know Ice, but I'm guessing you don't know Ice, you know? And what better way to get to know a true artist, then by studying his art?

By taking a closer look at Vanilla Ice's music, I think you will be just as surprised as I was at some of the insights into his particularly singular personality. We'll start by studying his debut album, the appropriately titled "To the Extreme" (and I say appropriate because this album is quintessential, pure, 100%, extreme Ice!).

"To the Extreme" is actually Ice's 1990 major label 're-packaging' of "Hooked", an album he released earlier that same year on a minor label. We will study "Extreme" instead of "Hooked", though, because "Extreme" is basically cleaner, crisper remixes of all the songs on "Hooked". "Extreme" also features a few more tracks than "Hooked" had, and is therefore a more complete document. ("Hooked" does in fact have one song not on "Extreme", a pseudo-remake of the Stones' classic "Satisfaction", but it popped up later on Ice's live album, so don't you Ice completists fret!)

Ice, Ice, Baby

If you have never heard this song, I now know 2 more items about you: 1) you must be part of the generation after mine (I often forget I'm becoming an old bastard); and 2) you've apparently never heard the Queen/Bowie song, Under Pressure.

With a melody stolen directly from that classic, but with a liberal dose of Ice's own original 'tude (that's white boy gangsta talk for 'attitude', by the way), this song is pretty much the best way to start our study. It was a monstrous hit in its day, and is still rather fascinating listening today.

As for what it tells us about Ice, well, feast your eyes on these little tidbits:

Ice is radioactive
Yes, in this song he tells us that if you turn off the lights, he will give off a glow, and unless he's just got that beaming, pregnant shine, then I'm sticking with my first guess.

Ice prefers his fans to be brain dead
At one point, Ice informs the listener that he is "killing [our] brain like a poisonous mushroom." Although this sounds a bit frightening at first, I'm proof positive that it's an idle threat at best! I've been listening to Ice for years, but my brain's as good as ever (granted, my brain started as mush, but that's not the point here)!

Ice has psychic powers
In one verse he announces that he 'slices like a Ninja blade', a surprisingly prophetic glimpse at his future contribution to the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2" soundtrack. Impressive, to say the least; he's no phony like that Madame Cleo broad on TV.

Anyway, I could go on forever about this song. We'd better move on to track #2.

Yo Vanilla

This is not a song per se, just a chipmunk-sounding idiot saying "Yo Vanilla! Kick it one time, boy!"

That's it. It's a four second track, but it is noteworthy that this is Ice's first solo writing credit. Good job, Ice!

Stop That Train

There's a lot of weird stuff going on in this one. We do learn that Ice is a little afraid of kinky sex (he bemoans the fact that his 'crew' is not with him when a girl pulls out handcuffs and chains, a game Ice just don't play), but I feel this song raises more questions than it ultimately answers.

For instance, he tells us that the girl "moans and groans like she could take on the A-Team". I've heard lots of people groan (not too many women, unfortunately), and I think you really can sometimes interpret those groans to mean strange things, but I have never, EVER heard anyone groan like that! Perhaps the girl was imagining Ice was a member of the A-Team, which is to say she was fantasizing Ice was Mr. T.

But okay, I can chalk that one up to my lack of experience with groaning women, but later he says: "Back to the story of a one night stand/I thought I was strong, but she was He-Man."


"SHE was He-Man"? Did I hear that right?

There is one question I can answer, though. Towards the end of the song, Ice is in misery and regret about this crazy girl's bedroom antics, and he asks, "Why did I ever tell her to 'Pump it, hottie?'"

Simple, Ice. It's because you're such a gentleman.


This song basically reveals that Ice cannot respect any man who is pussy whipped. That very fact reveals to me that Ice did not have a significant other when he wrote this song, because we all know the only people who make fun of guys for being whipped are guys who don't have a girl at all.

On a more specific level, the one true highlight of this song comes when Vanilla takes his 'whipped' friend to the side to counsel him. His friend, whose voice reminds me of a slightly subdued Urkel, says he needs to buy a bunch of expensive stuff for his girl, and Ice gets so worried that he runs after his friend, from the middle of your stereo, to the right speaker, and then off in that direction. Cool!

I have two major problems with this track that I should address, however. First off, Ice's friend - you know, the weak 'whipped' boy - is named Randy, and his girl is named Candy.

Hell, Ice, relax! Randy's not 'hooked' on this girl, he's just pretending to be so that you'll have a convenient rhyme to open the song with!

And second, we all know that you're talking about Randy being pussy whipped, but when you explain it, you say Randy's "hooked on that S-S-S-Y."


Early in the song, Ice, you say, "You understand what I'm saying?" but aat this point in the song, I say, "Uh ... nope."

Life Is A Fantasy


Another wild tale of wildman Ice's wild night with a wild gal, and one that gives even more insight into what makes the Iceman tick. Granted, this one has its share of out and out nonsense that has me stumped ("... you know I flow as cold as an ice cube" - exactly what fluid are you referring to there, Ice?), but this answers many questions about what Ice must be like in bed.

We learn that Ice does not mind being objectified as a sex object ("Come on baby, and let me be your toy"); although we already know he's not kinky, this song reveals he's not only into that boring ol' missionary position exclusively ("Let's do it like a train, and I'll be the caboose" - a line which also reveals he's brushed up on his Freud, and makes me want to yell "All aboard!" for some strange reason); and he seems to have a good opinion of his sexual prowess ("... you know Vanilla is the best.")

Despite these enlightening glimpses of Ice, one aspect of this song really disappoints me. See, at one point Ice offers to tell us what it's like to make love on an inner tube, which is of course a question we've all pondered from time to time. Unfortunately, this is how he describes it: "Floatin' on water while splashin' waves on your body/Flowin' and goin'; now pump it, hottie."

Gee, thanks, Ice. Now I'm going to have to find out for myself what it's like! Dammit!

By the way, Ice, I think I can help you with something here. Towards the end of this song, when you're giving us a blow-by-blow account of your wild night, you tell us that the girl says "Ooh, ah, ooh, ah", and you go on to add that you're not sure what that means.

I don't know; kinda sounds like to me she could take on the whole A-Team, dontcha think?

Play That Funky Music

Go white boy, go white boy, go! Yes! This rather chipper track was also a hit single, and in addition to being fun listening, it is also very educational.

Ice really cops a 'tude in this one, and by doing so, we learn that he can make any fly girl wet (although I doubt he'd choose just any fly girl - she'd have to be a hottie, I'm thinking), he's not afraid of anyone (since he challenges everyone to battle him), and he apparently doesn't like Kid'n'Play too much (as he throws a dis' their way).

Despite the abundant 'tude on display here, this track does show glimpses of self-awareness. When he says "I control the stage/There's no dissin' here - I'm in my own phase" I think what he is telling us is that the Ice we're hearing is just one of many phases he will ultimately go through (and thus far we've also seen the bluntcentric phase of Ice with 1994's 'Mind Blowin' and the hardcore Adidas rocker of '98's 'Hard to Swallow'). I think this then was Ice's subversive way of warning us what we could expect in the future. He also exclaims at one point that "'89 was my time; '90 is my year!" This is meant to signal that 1990 was the year of his arrival on the scene, but since he refers to 1990 and 1990 only, with absolutely no mention of the future, I think perhaps even Ice realized that his fifteen minutes of fame were rapidly counting down. Remember my earlier gripe about some of Ice's forced rhymes? Well, I can't accuse the man of being a bad sport about it. In this song he admits, "I like my rhymes atrocious" and then further proves that point by rhyming it to "Supercalifragilistigexpialidocious." Brilliant!

However, Ice really drops the ball at one point when he makes fun of some random homeboy by accusing him of eating spaghetti with a spoon. This is quite possibly the strangest (not to mention weakest) dis I've ever heard. For one thing, it's kinda hard to eat spaghetti with a spoon, so I figure that's more an accomplishment than an insult to have that talent! Still, that's my only real beef with this song, and I agree with Ice's other advice throughout, so yes - I will, in fact, play this funky music 'til I die.


Although it's about one of Ice's favorite subjects, this song is filler material all the way. It's obvious that even Ice can't get into this one. What a wasted opportunity, too; I mean, you'd think this song would be all about how Ice is a better dancer than all these other sucka MC's, but the only time Ice cops a 'tude in this one is when he disses non-dancers by sneering "Unless of course, you can't hang" in a taunting tone.

He also shows some age discrimination when he promised to come to all our home towns so that "People under 40 [can] get down." He then shows audience participation discrimination, when he invites the listeners to shout out the names of their home towns. However, before we can shout out a goddamned thing, Ice starts yelling out the names of big cities, and a dubbed in 'audience' shouts out "Catch the groove" after each city is announced. Sure, it is audience participation, but not quite the audience participation Ice promised us!

The most perplexing lyric in this one comes as Ice describes his dance style as "Kickin' like the chicken that you just ate." Now, unless you like them raw, the chicken that you just ate was probably dead and cooked, not live and kickin'. Thus the chicken was probably just sitting there on your plate, not even moving. This of course sounds like a very boring dance, but one which people over 40 could probably manage too. I mean, not moving is a dance pretty near everybody can do, no matter what their age group, and this just makes Ice's age discrimination sound even less fair.

Go Ill

Okay, this is more like it! None of that time wastin', disc fillin' crap about youngsters dancing like dead poultry here! This is pure, funky, white boy rap at its very best, and I ain't ashamed to admit I like it! But "Go Ill" is more than just some funky sound to get down to; this is essential listening for all you Ice students.

In this track, Ice reveals quite a lot about himself, including (but not limited to):

  1. Ice invented his very own alphabet: According to Ice, his name is spelled with "The V, the A, the N, and the ILLA". The ILLA? That was never in my A-B-C's (unfortunately).
  2. Ice does not like 'loose' women: He says "If you're a ho, get off my lap!" to which I say, "Bravo, Ice! Don't give in to her low morals! (By the way, where'd the ho go? I got a lap too, you know...)"
  3. Ice does not need to swear like most of those other, dirty rappers: According to Ice, his "Rhymes are clean/There's no need to be ill." I really respect that attitude, in this day and age; I mean, shit! It'd be fucking tough to express yourself without getting a little 'ill' here and there! Then again, the name of this song is "Go Ill", so why say "There's no need to be ill"? Is going ill different then being ill? Hmm ... this stuff's complex.
  4. Ice likes real coffee: Toward the end of the song, he says "I like my coffee, but I can't stand Sanka." There really isn't much I can add to that one.
  5. Ice is a doctor: "I'm the rhyme doctor, always on call!" says Ice. And they say health care is a problem in this country? (On an interesting sidenote, Deezer D. and Kristen Minter, two of Ice's co-star's from his film, "Cool As Ice"(which the AFI left off their list of the 100 best movies ever, so to hell with them!), are regulars on the show "E.R.". So I'm thinking, why not a Vanilla guest spot? He could show up at the hospital as a consulting expert, a rhyme doctor come to help Noah Wylie get ill. Then, when Noah's ill, the other doctors could cure him! Yeah! What's that I smell? I think it's Mr. Emmy...)
  6. Ice kicks ass: He doesn't really say anything in this song specifically about this subject; I just wanted to point it out.

In other words, you just can't go wrong when you "Go Ill".

It's a Party

This song is about how when Ice grabs a mic and he's in the mood to dance, the whole world's a party. He makes one unfortunate reference right off the top, though, when he says he's "Sparklin' like a towering inferno". Is he saying he's some kind of a disaster? I also get a little scared when he admits "I'm in the mood to dance/I'm in the mood to prance." Okay - I'm all cool with Ice dancing - his dance style is like some kind of epileptic kung fu, so it rules - but prancing, Ice? I hear that and all of a sudden I see Ice primping and preening in front of a stand-up mirror, with a gaudy red feathered boa ... I shudder.

Another notable aspect of this song is his repeated insistence that his music is his "dope", which means Ice is in effect a 'pusher' of sorts - a pusher of music, not drugs. This makes a lot of sense to me, as I'm all strung out on Ice, and will go berserk if I haven't had a fix.

There are 2 other real disturbing moments in this one, though. At one point, Ice announces he's "into a new phase." Already? Geez, Ice, we know you like to re-invent yourself, but damn, man, your last phase wasn't even 15 minutes ago (back in "Play That Funky Music", if you were wondering). Plus, Ice also says "shit" in this song, which pretty much blows his whole "Rhymes are clean" vow right out of the water. And to think, Ice, we trusted you....

The Juice to Get Loose, Boy

Another one of those nine second, chipmunk sounding gangsta talking tracks, which pretty much just serves as an intro to the next track. With that in mind, if your dirty mind was dreaming up sexually connotative meanings for the 'juice' he's referring to, you were absolutely correct!

Ice Cold

Short of reprinting the entire song here, there's really no way to catalogue this song's many greatnesses, so trust me on this one. You need to hear this for yourself, but I'll do what I can.

This song is all about the Iceman's sexual prowess, which automatically qualifies it as one of the greatest songs ever recorded. And as far as getting to know who Ice really is, well, this is a treasure trove! We learn that Ice likes his women to beg and plead, that he'll never put a woman above him (unless you're referring to "riding his saddle", of course), that he is apparently a rapist (I'm not being mean here; Ice himself admits he's "robbing virgins of their virginity" and I don't know about you, but the choice of the word 'robbing' tells me a lot), that you can't trust your girl around Ice (he admits that he "freaked" my girl in the back of my car! My girl! Damn! Well, to be honest, I should have seen it coming ... Brandy always did like Ice; it's one of the reasons I loved her....), and he reiterates that he is not satisfied with straightforward, missionary position sex (since he says "I made you work 'till your butt got sore!").

Plus, the most shocking, jaw-droppingly astonishing, soiling yourself moment on the entire album comes in this song, when he follows up the "Robbin' virgins of their virginity" with "Like Robin Hood gave to the poor." Uh ... I don't know; I guess Ice gives the virginity of his robbery victims to poor ho's who need virginity again? Maybe? Oh, well, at least it's for a charitable cause....

Rosta Man

This is kind of a weird song, but I give it points because it actually sounds like Ice is acknowledging an influence, and I think that's big of him (especially since he claimed the melody to "Ice, Ice, Baby" was totally original....).

Now, I think the Rosta Man of the title is a sort of mentor to Ice, some rhythmic dude who showed Ice the basics of reggae rhyming so Ice could adapt it to his own hip hop style. I see it as an old kung-fu scenario, with Ice the student and the reggae dude his old, stern master. It's a pleasant enough tune, I suppose, although ultimately it sounds more like it's trying to be Blondie's "The Tide Is High" than Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come."

I guess since he slipped up with the four letter word during "It's a Party", Ice felt he should be extra special careful here, because at one point he leaves a sentence open-ended, and the only word I can think of that would fit is 'tits'. (The line goes: "Shake your arms and move your hips/All you females out there let me shake your -"

Other than that, it's a pretty unremarkable tune. The most perplexing line is "And just get down like you're making love/All you people who believe in God above!" That sounds like to me he's saying "Hey all you decent, God fearing folk! Go out and sin for me!" Then again, he says "like you're making love" and not telling them to actually go out and rut, so I guess it's okay after all.

I Love You

After a whole album full of thinly veiled misogyny - dissin' gals for being ho's while at the same time not wanting a good girl who would just waste his time, not to mention his admission that he'd never put a woman ahead of himself - we are treated to this lovely song, a slow, gentle, innocent, simple and optimistic love song.

In fact, it's so one sided in its innocent viewpoint that it just has to be bullshit, no matter who sings it! Of course, with Ice singing, it becomes a different kind of bullshit altogether; an awful, phony, embarrassing track (which I plan to serenade every girl I'm ever interested in with, but that's beside the point).

Luckily, the next - and final - track sets things to right again, and also wraps up this amazing album in a fittingly amazing way.

Havin' a Roni

I admit, I'm even whiter a white boy than Vanilla himself, but as far as can tell, 'Roni' is 'ghetto-lingo' for a female. However, it's like bad slang for a girl, in the way that the word 'chick' is used for a cool girl, but 'broad' is used for a bad girl. 'Roni' is ghetto for 'broad', then (so I guess I should call my ex, who Ice freaked in my car, a 'Roni').

Anyways, I'm guessing even Ice himself was pissed at how sappy "I Love You" sounded, so he came back stronger than ever with this track, a barely over a minute long song with no music, just Ice's human beat-box making seriously strange sounds, pausing now and then to sing "What it's like; Havin' a Roni!" before continuing on to more strange sounds. Even though there is a bit of a cheat here - Ice never actually describes or explains what it's like to have a roni, and I never freaked Brandy, so I'd kinda like to know - this song is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

By the way, back when I was in college I knew a guy who could mimic all the sounds and beats and everything in this song. You may laugh at that, but he got all the chicks (probably even that Roni Brandy), so go figure.

And there we have it: "To The Extreme", one of the most amazing debut albums of its time. Or any time. I hope that this in-depth, track by track study has helped you along your Ice path, no matter where you find yourself on that path.

To all you Ice Virgins out there, I hope this has made you want to get that Vanilla Ice virginity robbed like Robin Hood.

To all you ex-fans who are ashamed to admit you ever liked him, I hope it reminded you why you liked him in the first place, and showed you that it's okay to come out the VIC (Vanilla Ice Closet).

To all you old time, way-back-when fans, I just wanna say word up, my brothers! You are not alone!

And to all you people who wonder if I'm serious about all this, or just having a laugh and the Ice-Man's expense, I tell you what: On October 31st of any year, you come on over to my house, where precisely at midnight, I throw my annual VIP (Vanilla Ice Party). We spin all the discs, watch the videos, read from the biographies and autobiography, watch the movie "Cool as Ice", and we have an all-out blast doing it.

And you tell me if I'm joking or not.

I'll be playing this funky music till I die....

Shannon L. Grisso is a freelance television computer graphics artist who lives in Boise, Idaho. His favorite color is red, and he has numerous allergies and personality disorders. He purchased his CD copy of "To the Extreme" at a store in Bozeman, Montana, and still swears it was the best 49 cents he ever spent. He has not had a date in over four years, and most nights finds himself feeling a little lonely. If invited back for a follow-up, Shannon's next article will cover Vanilla Ice's contributions to the world of cinema. Stay tuned....