Thursday, February 22, 2007

I Decide Who Lives Or Dies

I am once again a Nielsen household. I got a big ol' envelope with two ratings diaries and a doubled salary: $30 in cold hard whore-cash instead of the $15 I got last year. They must have heard about the high-end treatment I've been receiving as a Big Time Author, and the price of my opinion has skyrocketed.

So far I've watched a documentary on the life of Dean Martin (on purpose) and an hour-long discussion of the history of the shovel (by accident; the phone rang after Dean was over.) See, America, you can totally trust me with representing your viewing habits.

memories are made of this at:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bear Down

This is a long one.

Since the publication of my first book, once the mob violence receded, I began getting questions about my MFA thesis, and what it was about, and could you read it, and will it be published, and blah-all. Answers:

1) It's a collection of essays called People Who Choose to Run.
1a) Because the committee wouldn't let me call it "Here's Your @*^&#% Thesis", that's why.

2) The essays were about... people... running.

3) No.

4) Kinda. "The Waltz," which was published in Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Authors, is pulled from People Who Choose To Run.

One of my babies from the thesis is the titular one (Heh. "Titular"). It is my ugly baby. Nobody loves it but me. "People Who Choose to Run" has been smacked around by everybody from Vanity Fair to Sci-Fi Today to a smattering of eighteen-year-old, barely sober students under my tutelage. That's quite an accomplishment; I mean, you have to really, really have a special something to get rejection that broad-based. I now offer you, my dearest The Readers, the opportunity to hate it as well.

So I'm publishing it here. And then running.

ManMan’s last girlfriend smacked him around and Slinger’s brother was awaiting his next court date and Samurai had open sores on his arms that the doctors couldn’t figure out and I, LadyKenobi, was on three or four medications for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder--we were par for the course, then, for a group of people who had met on the Internet.

This was Mayberry compared to the action in the hotel lobby, where two women wandered amongst the stained glass windows and mahogany banisters in khaki pants and vampire capes, and where, upon check-in, ManMan was accosted by a person who followed him about chanting the Oath of the Green Lantern.

I was covering this, I told people as I threw more VCR tapes than clothes into a suitcase bound for the Gateway Convention in St. Louis, for a science fiction website. It was work, it was necessary; a sociological safari deep within the womb of sci-fi obsession. It was…it was… crap, I was fooling no one, this was Donald Trump covering the Rich Arrogant Ass Olympics. I was traveling three hundred miles, on purpose, to meet people I had never met before, who didn’t know my first name but were fully apprised of the fact that LadyKenobi had two baby nephews and OCD.

When a television show wins its time slot, it’s a hit; when it pops up in syndication, it’s a classic; and when a tiny, frighteningly ardent pocket of the American population has the ability to name the guest star, the production assistant and the art director of Episode Fourteen, Season Nine… that is the kiss of Entertainment Tonight coverage death… that is a cult hit.

That is the case of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which ran for ten years on three different cable stations and, some time after the last episode aired, can still move legitimate numbers of licensed Post-It Note pads through its fan club. If you’ve not heard of the thing, or watched it with an indifferent, passing amusement, you are most likely well-adjusted. The sad and the gifted, the academic and the strange flock here, to a space-stranded astronaut and two robot puppets silhouetted before an old, bad movie, shouting derision at plots that go nowhere and heaving sighs over monsters with tie-on heads and zippers down the back.

There was precisely one camera angle. You could hear the puppet’s plastic mouths clack, for God’s sake. The MSTie— that is how one refers to oneself, when one is a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan--- delights in all this, because that’s real, that is real fakeness out there. There was no pretension to the contrary, and there are no digitally rendered characters in choreographed fight sequences-- these robots aren’t real, these movies are bad, and we are going to get through this thing together, you and I.

The MSTie is a variant non-subspecies of the Trekkie and the Star Wars freak. Star Trek is out there; it’s mall-available and it’s got its own line of Halloween costumes. Spock and Captain Kirk are doing commercials for The MSTie spits upon the Trekkie-- anyone can buy a set of Vulcan ears and frighten away potential spouses; but the MSTie has to fashion his own replica robot puppets from scratch. It takes a real man, it takes a real woman, to be a MSTie.

Therefore when the MSTie enters the internet community and the internet community becomes flesh, it is reality whiplash. They were all in one place, these Internet phantoms, with skin on; I bought ice cream with ManMan and shared a bathroom sink with Slinger, these people who were formerly not people but formatted text on the laptop. They had bodies, it seemed, and luggage, and shampoo, and jobs.

Most of these parishioners, breathing the rarified oxygen of a shared passion, coexisted in a sort of peaceable if rollicking shared consciousness. But when a significant portion— or, in some cases, the entirety of— one’s social life revolves around a world in which the only other pulsing heartbeat is the cursor, any foreign element, any rift amongst the townsfolk, is analyzed and magnified and personalized and just beaten and kicked at until it is atoms.

We call it the World Wide Web, but there is something firmly American about the Internet: the flat democratic access, the flashing ads, the sudden blare of the splashpage. We have been creating and recreating ourselves since we rushed a Boston boat in the dark, thowing native headdresses over our pale foreheads. The Internet is there, and yet not there, words and images carefully arranged and scattered again with a click. It is at once stripped bare and laid out like glistening fish in a Plexiglass case, and if anyone chooses to see himself reflected in the eyeballs of a cable TV plastic puppet, this is the place.

We stood in line the first day, an endless ray of shifting pilgrims in blue-bordered nametags, its beginning point a cafeteria table where the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 held court at an autographing session. The line slid past the check-in desk, down the hall of conference rooms, around the elevator stall and into the hospitality suite, where a woman arrayed in black leather sold medieval codpieces, beaded hair ornaments, and t-shirts that read “Pimpin’ Is Easy When You’re This Good-Looking.”

Some of the lower-end beadwork was dangling from my bangs. I felt like Cleopatra; I look like David Bowie. When I moved my head the beads tinked and clicked and offset the low murmurs of the fans bending towards their heroes—the creators of a puppet show-- arrayed at the cafeteria table.

“Thank you. Thank you. You’re awesome..”

“Is the show coming back? We would love for the show to come back. Is it a money thing? Here’s a twenty, see if that won’t help.”

“Oh, dude… dude, man… you guys rule.”

Such things were said because one does not approach another human being and say what we really meant, which was, “You changed my life,” or, farther into the canyon, “You saved my life.”

And so ManMan merely smiled and said hello as he came face to face with the show’s host, Mike Nelson, and Slinger, when handing a writer her Mystery Science Theater Amazing Colossal Episode Guide did not say, “The show is just about the only thing that makes my dad laugh since the chemo started; we sit and watch and it’s just like it used to be.” Instead she clutched at the spine, fluttered the pages against her palm, stared softly down at the cover.

Later, at a Q and A session with Nelson, someone asked him if he was ever recognized on the street, and he looked pained and replied, “Never… but then perhaps I am, and people just choose to run.”

“I wonder if they ever think of it,” I said.

“Again with the thinking,” said ManMan.

“Mike Nelson and the others. The marriages that are made and the lawns that go unmowed an extra day and the Internet connections that get upgraded, all because of that show. I wonder if those guys ever think about all that.”

“It would probably freak them out if they did,” he said.


The two of us were sitting on a bent-over wooden bench facing the cracked and weedy tennis courts. There was a white-gold moon that night over Twain country, and ManMan, who had grown up in Hawaii and lived in Colorado, tipped his head at the chick-chirring wail of the cicadas and asked what the hell it was. “Yet another bit of living you owe the Internet,” I told him during a crescendo, “because if you’d never met us online, and never have come to St. Louis, and you might have lived your entire life never having heard cicadas at all.”

He snorted, and was silent.

I scraped at the cracked wood with a fingernail, and knew he understood that far lesser things than a couple of puppets had built icebergs for oceanliners where wide, cold water used to be and carved the Y’s of roads less traveled.

We leaned up against one another, the closest contact we dared.

In the hotel rooms above, flickering in hazy multi-generational VHS reproduction on nineteen-inch screens, Mike Nelson and the robots sailed on, fighting off the lousy movies, orbit after orbit, never entirely sure of where they were or when they would get home. At the same time, those who had wrought them were at large in St. Louis-- maybe sleeping, maybe drinking, maybe holed up in one of their rooms just a few doors down, shaking their heads at the whole sorry lot of us, these pilgrims they had brought upon their own heads simply by doing well at their jobs, saying the same thing ManMan said to me that night under the Missouri moon: That’s real fakeness out there.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


This could explain the few pieces of always anonymous, nasty-bad unfan mail I get from time to time:

Research by King's College London says addiction to email is doubly worrying because such technology depletes cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs.

Email users suffered a 10 per cent drop in IQ scores, more than twice the fall recorded by marijuana users.

but this was really the part that warmed the carefully counted chambers of my OCD-suffering heart:

Others wait for emails and send themselves a message if one hasn't shown up for several minutes...
What do those say? Is it an invitation to a wonderful new life via stock tips? Are they offering themselves a limited time only deal on Viagra, or HOTSLUTCHIX? Do they put a subject line? What about chain forwards? Do you count as one of the people you have to forward it to, or do you then have to re-forward it to ten more people in order to avoid instantaneous death? I have so many questions. Hold on a sec, I'll email them to myself and let you know what I come up with.

used to refresh the page on the way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night at:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mommy, He's Being Mean/She's In My Room Again

Oh thank God, we're here again. I was starting to worry.

It's been five whole seconds since the The Womb has gazed lovingly upon its $40k a year navel, and, having learned absolutely nnnnnnnnnothing from the last time Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College hurled large and heavy SAT words at one another over our sick and cherished brother-sister relationship, they're hurling once more. The U.S. News and World Report rankings have been busted out, and lo, we are a happy people.

When I was a sophomore, two Notre Dame students wrote a letter to the (shared, incidentally) student paper referring to Saint Mary's women as "parasites." There was much wailing, followed by counter-wailing, followed by a task force, followed by a student summit, followed by the creation of SMC Pride Week, followed by a picnic, followed by a lawsuit, followed by a careful arrangement of skirts and graduate school applications that made everybody feel better. Until, of course, now.

"You'd better go take a look at this," emailed Doug The Reader/FriendSpouse, a Domer who happens to have married a parasite and produced two little semi-parasites of their own (being half-breeds, their children would only take up an undeserved 50% of a seat at the Notre Dame football games.)

It seems a Notre Dame student has taken exception to the headline of Saint Mary's latest written piece of self-esteem flair, "Separate and Proud." He thinks it sucks. I agree. It makes us sound like a sitcom featuring John Lithgow about a gay divorced couple.

But this kid thinks it sucks because he doesn't like the fact that occasionally Saint Mary's students get to sit two inches closer to the football field than he does, and is of the decidedly crap-filled opinion we don't offer anything in return except a sample pool for feminine hygiene ads and Official Gumball Machines, and so if we really want to be separate, and proud, then we should stay separate and proud and let the Invisible Fence of our womynly egos zap us mid-Avenue should we place one high heel upon hallowed Domer ground.

You can imagine the screeching.

I read the resultant thesaurus storm. I gave 'em three days for somebody to suggest a "dialogue" to save our souls. It took one. Awesome. I'll alert Plato.

I do not understand the screeching, or the pointing-out of the suckage that caused the screeching. Yea, verily, Notre Dame has a larger quantity of things to offer than Saint Mary's does. It has created its own expectations. It's, like, way big and stuff, and good for it. It's got pooploads of books in a thirteen story library with Jesus tiled right on it and its own fleet of shipping-receiving trucks. People don't watch a nationally televised football game seven times a year on NBC and show up on campus expecting a small handful of squirrels and a piece of posterboard upon which "This Way To The Learnin'" has been shakily lettered in Sharpie. Therefore: A locker room with a nicer bathroom carpet than the Pope's.

Saint Mary's is smaller. It's supposed to be smaller. That's its point, and good for it. I would be very worried if my womens' college started regularly shipping linebackers to the NFL draft; I would, at minimum, suggest a serious investigation of what's in the dining hall tuna salad. We have a combination dorm/chapel/indoor pool/office/classroom/dance studio building that smells like last semester's mold experiment, bless it. We have a biology faculty that could fit in my dishwasher. We have a track team that (in my era, at least) has to share its uniforms with the cross-country team. And that's what I wanted, the whole tight-knit, mentor-intense, wearing-berets-in-the-coffee-house type of thing.

Now. I also enjoyed the sibling fruits of Notre Dame's way-bigness, but that doesn't make me firmly X out the "Saint Mary's College" on my diploma and rewrite "University of Notre Dame" with a green glitter pen. What it does is makes me visit Notre Dame's bookstore and drop $70 on Glee Club CDs. Sorry for the inconvenience, brother.

My beloved alma mater can, on occasion, mount a high horse, a high horse the size of your average Budweiser clydesdale. You cannot place a page on your website entitled "Centers of Distinction" when in fact these "centers" do not involve actual buildings and fail to admit you've got at least one foot in the great stirrup of pretentiousness.

But if we have a high horse, perhaps it's because our brother school bred it, bought it, tacked it up, and led it to the Avenue entrance for Saint Mary's to ride all the way to Italy (DID YOU KNOW NOTRE DAME STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN OUR ROME EXCHANGE PROGRAM?! WELL, THEY TOTALLY DO, SIGNORE.) The price we pay for four years of football tickets, for the ice skating rink, for the world-class speakers, for the rodeo club, is a lifetime of barely suppressed "SMCs R Stoopid" snobbery, largely because our average entrance exam scores are lower, and our acceptance rates higher, than Notre Dame's. Of course they are; we only have half the population to recruit from, and our school mascot isn't plastered all over ESPN half the year. Our mascot is a gigantic paper mache bell. It doesn't translate quite as well to Officially Licenced Antibacterial Hand Soap.

Personally, my ego can withstand a few dings in exchange for the ability to hang around the Moscow Festival Ballet, because the truth of the intelligence of Saint Mary's women is the pitifully obvious cause of the entire controversy: We've found us an excellent small college that costs less than yours and would still allow us access to Billy Joel concerts. Yep, we're a real bunch of idiots.

But the perception remains, and the perception hurts our lady-feelings, and therefore we are self-hoisted into the blue, blue sky, in this glorious age of "I'm a Winner!" buttons and participation awards, by "Separate and Proud."

Of course, if everybody just read this, the suckage-pointing and the screeching wouldn't be an issue, and all war, pestilence, and famine shall cease to be.

Until then, I say with love, darling siblings...

Notre Dame, let your sister play. You'll have more fun.

Saint Mary's, stand up straight, and thank your brother.

don't make me come up there at:

Knowing a Good Opportunity When They See One UPDATE: These boys are gettin' some tonight.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More about how much I love MB

Those of you who know anything about me know that besides MB and flying/controlling airplanes, there is nothing in this world I love more than Nascar, and today was it's Most Holy Day, the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. This is the the Nascar edition of the IRL's Indy 500, Formula 1's Grand Prix of Monaco, and sports cars' 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is the day my sport looks forward to all winter. Okay, I can hear some of you out there screaming, "It's not a sport! At the very least, call it a motorsport!"; however, let's not get into it right now. Perhaps some other time.

Anyway, so today is the biggest event of the year for me as a Jeff Gordon-loving, Dale Jr/Tony Stewart-not-so-loving, reluctantly-accepting-a-foreign-manufacturer Nascar fan. I have been dying to see this race on TV ever since last season ended, and today I...... was driving a truck full of MB's stuff, trekking through the snow in between Cincinnati and northern Virginia. I managed to pick up the race on different radio stations as I drove along, but it's not the same as seeing it on TV, or watching in person.

The reason I'm marrying Tink is because she appreciates the sacrifice I made today. She could care less about Nascar herself, but she understands that the race today was a big deal for a rabid fan like me, and I gave up seeing it on TV so I could move her stuff from Cincy to our future home. Gentlemen, you will be happy the rest of your life when you find a woman who understands and accepts your die-hard love of your favorite sport, and who appreciates it when you give it up for a day for her sake.

Concerning the race itself, congrats to Kevin Harvick on the win, and now I guess Mark Martin, who was winning but lost to Harvick by a bumper length at the finish line, will be coming back again next year to try to win the 500. For you non-Nascarites, Mark is like Brett Favre. He can't decide when to retire, so he keeps going, seeking the ultimate prize of his sport even when he knows he's probably past his best years. If you don't know who Brett Favre is... never mind.
My favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, finished 10th, which is a good start to the season and way better than he ran during the race. I think he wound up that high because he managed to miss the big wreck at the end.

That's racin' at:

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