Monday, June 26, 2006

Synergy - A Farce


Two Gentlemen, ROD and JIM are seated at a table.

Rod: So, I was at this party the other night and these two guys, Mike and Phil made a bet on a boxing match. The loser had to be known as the other’s bitch for a full year.

Jim: So, they just do each other favors and call each other “bitch,” or what?

Rod: No, the loser had to legally change his name. So the loser, Mike, had to go down to the courthouse and change his name to Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike. Isn’t that hilarious?

Jim: No fucking way! I don’t believe you.

Rod: Straight up, my man. That’s the whole reason I brought it up. Phil Johnson's Bitch Mike is right over there. (over Jim’s shoulder) Hey Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike! What’s up dude?

(PHIL JOHNSON’S BITCH, MIKE, notices them and approaches. Rod stands to shake his hand.)

Rod: (continuing) Jim Halverson, this is Phil Johnson’s Bitch Mike.

Jim (standing, shaking Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike’s hand): Um, nice to meet you, um Mike.

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Actually, it’s Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike.

(They all sit.)

Jim: Okay…Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike. But doesn’t it bother you to be called that?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Nah, man. A bet’s a bet. I don’t think my fiancĂ©e likes it too much that we have to change our wedding announcements to read Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike Anthony Johnson and Caitlin Fleur Nelson, but that’s all right.

Rod: You’re just missing the bigger picture. Actually at the party, we went around the room assigning one-dimensional qualities to people that best explains their personality archetype. You can get to know someone so much better that way.

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Sorta like how Native Indians used to name each other, like Chief Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse.

Rod: Right, but with a modern twist. For example, that girl you used to date in college, Mary, was there. And she was the first to be renamed as Mary Takes A Lotta Dicks.

Jim: She does?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: And then there was Gunter Coke-In-Nose, because he’s always doing so much coke. And Rebekah The Semi-Retarded Waitress. It’s like, synergy, man.

Rod: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: What?

Rod: What, you’ve never heard of the advertising concept of the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Yeah, it’s like an ad thing.

Jim: Yes, yes. I’m familiar with synergy, but I don’t find the fact that this guy legally changed his name to indicate that he’s someone’s bitch particularly synergistic.

Rod: Well, you’ve heard about these guys who’ve had the names of companies tattooed on their foreheads or whatever, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Well the same thing applies here.

Rod: And it’s catching on. You’ve to get in on the ground floor on this one, Jim. People are changing. The world is changing.

Jim: Like, how?

Rod: Well, take me for example. I’ve rented out my ass and my dick for sponsorship contracts.

Jim: You what now?

Rod: You heard me right. On my ass, I have a temporary tattoo of Frizzle Freeze Fruit Droolers and my dick has been renamed Celltech Wireless Presents Rod’s Cock. So, everytime I get naked, I am contractually obligated to say aloud, "Celltech Wireless Presents Rod’s Cock." A lot of porn stars are doing it, too. They get the logos tattooed right onto their junk.

Jim: They have advertisements on their genitalia?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Same here, man except when ever I take my shirt off I announce, “Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike’s naked upper torso is Brought to you by Squeezie’s Extra Soft Tissue Paper, Vitriol Vitamins and Deuce-Loose Juice Incontinence Products. The Juice gets the Deuce Loose!”

Jim: You guys are fucking with me, right?

Rod: Sheeyit! How do you think I paid for Paradigm Pictures’ in partnership with Sinking Ships Studios Presents Cinderella 2 Presents Rod’s new Audi?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: The same way I paid for Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike’s new nose was produced by Funderland Amusement Parks, a division of Stooperlame Entertainment Corp, LLC. Synergy…

Jim: Synergy?

Rod and Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike (together): Synergy.

Jim: So you think I should get down with synergy?

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Everybody should get down with synergy. As a matter of fact, I hear Chewsy Chopper’s Chewing Gum is taking applicants for forehead-tattoo billboards right now, right down the street at the Vietnamese-American deli. It pays pretty well, too.

Jim: You think I should go check it out?

Rod: Maybe…and by maybe, I mean, “Hell yes!”

Jim: All right, I’m gonna go check it out. Wait here for me? I’ll be right back.

Rod: You know it.

Jim: And, thanks, Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike.

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike (calling after Jim): Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike and the Department of Education advise you to stay in school!

(Jim exits hastily.)

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike (continuing): You think he bought it?

Rod: I told you he would, he’s a sucker for money.

Phil Johnson’s Bitch, Mike: Nicely done. You truly have a gift.

Rod: Another branded walking billboard, courtesy of Chewsy Chopper’s Chewing Gum’s newest advertising synergist, Rod “Richman” Richmond!

(They share a hearty laugh.)


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A (Finished?) Tale

I stumbled onto this short story as I was doing a little first-day-of-summer snooping in my old files. I know why I wrote it. I know what it's about. I understand the satire. The thing is, I can't remember if I considered this a finished piece or not. It's clearly not polished.

Is it finished? You be the judge.

“The Sudden Epidemic Blues: Pestilence Pandemonium!”

I made my way outside in the early morning sun, stretching my weary bones giving way to fits of yawns. As I stooped to grab the paper, I noticed the neighbors packing up their minivan, hustling their kids out of the house and into the back seat.

Jim, the more male of the two parental figures must’ve noticed my quizzical gaze.
“Getting out of town for the weekend. I suggest you do the same,” he shouted over the hedgegrow.
Funny how sometimes people see in the expression of your face that you require additional information, yet they fail to provide it.
“Alright,” I half-yawned, “have fun.”
I could feel his sharp gaze penetrate the back of my head as I made my way up the rickety steps onto my porch. By the time I turned round to acknowledge him, he had refocused his attention on the screaming two year-old struggling in the car seat.

Once inside, I set the paper down in favor of seeing what the television had to offer on a Saturday morning. I usually make it a point to avoid watching the local news – it can be downright scary and unfairly so, I might add. This morning was no different, -er, okay, this morning was a little different because every channel was playing and replaying coverage of the same thing: a pestiferous virus had somehow made its way into Los Angeles and was quickly spreading throughout the community. I pondered the juxtaposition of the words “community” and “Los Angeles” and the hypocrisy inherent therein for a moment. The two did not seem to fit together well. In fact, one of the things I loved/hated about Los Angeles was its complete lack of community, and so I found it puzzling that the newscaster would dare presume that anyone would feel alarmed by this “perceived” threat to the perceived “community.”

Surprisingly enough, many of the various news reports were suggesting either a mass exodus or mass quarantine of the LA area. Quite frankly, I didn’t know the difference because as soon as you tried to evacuate the LA area, an unintentional clusterfuck of a quarantine is exactly what you’d have. And, as they switched over to the traffic copters, I soon found that is exactly what they did have. I (perhaps a little selfishly) wondered how these recently developing events would affect the errands I had to run later in the day.

I picked up the paper and scanned the headlines: more about the pandemic. I was momentarily horrified as I stared at the front page, but upon further investigation my horror subsided when I learned that no, Madonna and Guy Ritchie had not separated, they were just in different locations working on different projects –separation of the geographical nature, not of the matrimonial variety.

To humor myself I read a little about the impending plague, which had already made sick a few hundred Valley residents and a handful of which had already expired. It seems that the emergency rooms were nearly full by midnight this morning as people came in and claimed to be suffering from a variety of mild to mildly serious flu-like symptoms. Either a serious bug was in the air, or there was a nasty strain of food poisoning working its way through a local taco stand. I was hardly three paragraphs into the article when I came across the inevitable terrorist attack speculation, which I then learned had been tenuously proven true but was as yet unconfirmed by the authorities. The paper indicated that no one had yet claimed responsibility. I stopped to ponder on how perplexing it was that terrorists take so much pride in claiming responsibility for calamity. I had always assumed that deniability was the first and best option.

The television was demanding more of my attention than I wanted to give it so, as I picked up the remote to turn it off, I paused to watch a little of the fourth ‘This Just In’ segment in the last ninety-seconds. It seemed that FEMA was now involved and was rescinding the request that Los Angelenos evacuate the city. Instead, the visibly stirred official asked LA residents to stay in their homes and await further instructions. As it turns out, the cops and EMTs were having trouble keeping up with the increasing demands of the gridlocked traffic as several semi-major car accidents, fistfights and small riots had put the entire freeway system at a standstill. In other words, the Saturday morning traffic more resembled a weekday morning. I shook off the sudden shudder of terror that went up my spine at the prospect of having to sit in traffic all day in an attempt at getting my errands done.
“I’ll just take the surface streets,” I proclaimed jovially to myself.
I could hear sirens wailing in the distance. Then an altogether new set of sirens chirped and whined in closer proximity. I frowned knowing all this noise in my normally quiet neighborhood was going to seriously affect my customary afternoon nap.

Despite the mass exodus, the news reporters were still able to find willing interviewees. It’s funny how when people are running away from an impending disaster, there always seems to be a handful of them who are willing to stop for a camera and explain to a reporter how they are running away from an impending disaster. This thought snapped me out of my daze and I snapped off the television. Exclamation point.

I found this to be a genuine golden opportunity to go back to bed and wait the latest pandemonium out the only way I know how: by ignoring it. Now if only my neighbor would shut off his fucking radio with all of the “Large Scale Disaster of Epidemic Proportions” chatter I can barely hear coming from outside my window. I mean, seriously, some people are so selfish, it’s like they don’t care about anybody else but themselves at all.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

On the Anti-Intellectualism of the Tao

In the past few months I have undertaken a serious study in the Taoist canon via firstly, the Tao Te Ching, and then a collection of Thomas Cleary translations broken down into volumes called, appropriately enough, The Taoist Classics. While I am only part of the way through the second of four volumes in this particular series, I can tell you that one common theme comes through in the pursuit of the Tao – a conscious effort to avoid conscious or, contrived, thought.

It is, for those who pursue the study of Taoist thought, readily apparent that Taoism is incredibly hard to understand, often seemingly contradicting its own logic, or complete lack thereof. The further one goes into this study, the more complicated and esoteric the Tao becomes and it is incredibly easy to get lost in the rhetoric, much of which is delivered via metaphorical prose that is in and of itself a task to decipher. However, it seems that getting lost in the rhetoric defeats the purpose of studying the Tao, as it is often stated in the literature that the words are not as important as the end result.

I am no exception to the confusion. I am currently in the middle of exploring Taoist alchemy, which is maddeningly complex and have found that my “western sensibilities” are proving of very little use in coming to understand the meaning behind these texts.

For those who don’t know, I will briefly and simply, relate what I believe to be the main purpose of the Tao: to return to the state at which one is “clear and responsive” – an almost infantile state of empty-minded, yet fully-aware consciousness. Reacting instead of acting. It doesn’t mean zoning out, or closing up, or taking a vow of silence. It simply means observing, considering and reacting appropriately according to the tenets of modern ethics, etc.

One thing I love about Taoism is the stated purpose of conforming the rhetoric to fit the current social conditions instead of ascetic adherence to an archaic pantheon of moral code. Taoism acknowledges the ever-changing state of society and encourages one to consider how his thoughts and behavior are appropriate for the time, while still incorporating the methodology and overall basic thesis of the Tao. This concept is similar to taking ‘the middle path’ – a Buddhist concept that preaches right mindfulness.

It is interesting to me, though, how the study and application of the Tao in my life has carried over to my interactions with others and my thought process in its entirety. I find this both a blessing and a curse. For example, a blessing is I have spent less time intellectualizing and over-analyzing my relationships, actions and general overall function in any given environment, which is something – for better or worse – that I am often prone to do. In fact, one might say that I have historically spent much of my time in critical self-analysis. Obviously, this affects nearly everything that I think, do or say, and so consequently, I have found it difficult to find new things to write about in this new state of mind, which is a curse, albeit a tolerable one.

I cannot say how long this foray into Eastern thought will last. I have become more and more interested in philosophy in the last few years and have pursued my interest in various media. But there is a difference between Eastern and Western thought, most notably, the degree to which a topic is intellectualized. In my brief dalliance with Eastern thought, I have found that critical analysis is forsaken in favor of simplistic face-value assessment. In fact, Eastern thought isn’t generally categorized in the Philosophy section or the religious section of a book store, but into a grey area somewhere in-between, often called, (surprisingly enough) “Eastern Thought.”

My pursuit of Taoism has inspired me to expand (once I finish with the current canon, of course) into Buddhism, which has much in common the certain schools of Taoism.

It’s strange to actively try and not think about things that are so commonly over-analyzed in one’s daily life – to let situations that are usually associated with internal or external strife enter your mind and dissolve, leaving no trace of existence whatever. I wouldn’t claim to have mastered any of the Taoist techniques, but I have experimented with it to some success and I find that much of my experience, when it lacks the taint of my personal judgment, is far more rewarding now than it once was. It’s sort of like the old saying that goes something like “love like you won’t get hurt,” etc. The pure simplicity of interaction itself is worth the effort.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I have seriously asked this question of several people in the last few days. It's a weird query, I know, but for some reason it's been bugging me.

Why don't we wash our toothbrushes in the dishwasher?

Okay, here's my logic: you eat off of a fork and a spoon and a plate and drink out of a cup, all of which are either handwashed or washed in the dishwash apparatus. Why, then, do we not wash something that we stick in our mouths more than once a day and leave to fester and rot with our daily mouthgerms all over it?

What does this problem say about the philosophy of hygiene in our culture?

I think I know the answer, or at least a rough approximation of one, but any one answer I come to seems unsatisfactory. It could be that soap may get caught in the bristles and we would slowly damage our teeth or, worse yet, poison ourselves to death. But that seems highly unlikely.

Maybe toothpaste is an adequate enough of a cleansing agent not to require outsourced cleansing. I mean, it may be that cleansing a cleanser itself is redundant.

...and I think I just answered my own dumbass question.

The preceeding was an ill-conceived thought experiment.

I'm sorry.

(Just trying to get something going, for mine brain hath grown stagnant).