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.