Archive for the 'Rusty Brain' Category
Saturday, September 22nd, 2007
I hadn’t used my old desk in years. I’d been reticent to part with it, but household reorganization demanded it must go. I told my wife, “I’m going to sell this desk. It’s too cool to throw away. Someone will love it as much as I have.”
My wife said, “No one will want your old beat-up desk. Let’s saw it in half and put it out for the garbage pickup.”
I said, “You may be right. Let me write an ad on Craigslist, and we’ll see if anyone wants it.” Here was my ad:
World’s sturdiest and most lovable desk
I bought this desk as a college student back in 1984. Since then it has lived in Missouri, Chicago, and now Colorado. This desk has seen countless art projects, ancient Macintosh computers, and occasional Thanksgiving dinners. I wrote term papers and love letters to my wife sitting at this desk.
Now it must go. It’s too big, too heavy, too beat-up, sayeth my wife. It’s an old friend, and I’d hate to see it end up in a landfill.
It would be perfect for an artist’s studio or someone’s workshop. Make no mistake; the desk is showing its age. Of course, it wasn’t perfect when I bought it in 1984 — the wear has always been part of its charm.
The center drawer locks and I have the key. The top can be removed for easier transportation. It has a file drawer on the right side that can hold standard-size 8.5″ x 11″ papers.
There’s a stamp on the bottom that says 1929. I still have a tag that was in the desk when I bought it that says 1962. I’m more inclined to believe 1962 than 1929, but who knows.
This desk will bring you luck and love. It’s solid wood. It’s always warm, never cold.
Come, give my cherished old desk a good home.
The response was amazing. I had a dozen e-mails inquiring about the desk within a day. I ended up selling it to a girl who gave it as a surprise gift to her boyfriend, a college student majoring in journalism. It was apropos, given that I had been a college student in J-school when I bought it. I actually delivered it to him, and I could tell immediately he saw the charm and character in the old desk.
As I left, I told him, “Someday, when you grow tired of the desk or no longer need it, pass it on.”
I found a sticker inside the desk when I cleaned out all my stuff. I had bought the desk in 1984 at Warehouse of Fixtures, 3270 Laclede, St. Louis, MO (314) 534-3250. I googled it, and they’re still in business. Even their phone number is the same.
Thursday, December 21st, 2006
It just snowed a couple of feet of snow here in Denver, and it keeps coming down. I’m tempted to compare the hardships we’re suffering with the Colorado pioneers. You probably can guess all the stuff they suffered: frostbite, starvation, death, so I won’t bore you with their details. Here is a list of the things which we have suffered today:
- Drank last bottle of red wine. Forced to borrow another bottle from the neighbors.
- Had to shovel three feet of snow that had drifted atop the hot tub before enjoying a soak.
- Satellite dish for DirecTV needed to be cleared of snow in order to watch TV.
- No mail today.
- Chained up the tires on my Land Cruiser. Forced to lie in a cold puddle, briefly. My blue jeans were wet and cold.
- Weather.com maps showed inaccuracies.
- Relative in warmer climes kept annoying us with phone calls for some incomprehensible reason. “Yes, we’re OK. No wait, we’re dead! Just kidding, we’re drinking.” WTF?
- Ski trip to Copper Mountain may be postponed due to excessive snow. How ironic is that?
- Prevented me from playing the hero. Newer version of Volkswagen Passat seems to have no front tow point. I have an enormous 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser with lockers, aftermarket bumper, recovery points with D-Rings and a strong strap. All Volkswagen had to do was provide a single front recovery point, as they did for decades in their other cars. What, do they think their cars are able to fly? Fucking Germans.
- Couldn’t find my favorite knit cap.
As you can see, the hardships faced by the modern Coloradan have not changed much in 150 years. Even my mule was cold.
Saturday, December 16th, 2006
Oh! I desire you most at night, especially after everyone else in my household hath gone to bed. You are best when fresh, recently unwrapped, naked to the nighttime air. I love that first taste, when my whole mouth doth envelope you. I am overwhelmed by your luscious sweetness.
Must I wait? Oh, how do you tempt me!
Do not elude me, my love. I search for thee in the deep cabinets of the pantry. You are hidden from the easy eyes of children and strangers, yet I will seek you unto the bottom depths of the bread drawer. Art thou hidden on the back side of swing-out shelves, behind boxes of name brand cereal, betwixt bags of chips?
When you are with me, I must have you immediately. When you are absent, every synapse in my skull arcs with aching bursts of micro-electricity, longing for your return. I feel I can hold your shape within my hands, even when you are not here. I stroke your ghost with my fingers and thumbs, close my eyes and picture your magnificence. Our affair must be brief, yet I will savor your memory for all time.
My saliva glands cannot lie. I want you, I need you — now more than ever. Let us join together as one, and this moment shall become the landmark when two became as one, crashing through the gates of tradition, and the lower shelves of grocery stores, forever.
Friday, September 15th, 2006
I finished redesigning the Rusty Brain blog tonight. The rest of my family sleeps. Other people dance, laugh, rejoice. I look for ghosts in the code and silently celebrate the alignment of the search box element on the home page. Through my window, the paparazzi shoot pictures of my hunched form outlined in LCD glow. Envy me.
Friday, March 10th, 2006
I had a dream.
It was the year 2000. The Internet was still on fire. People were getting rich left and right, simply by tattooing “.com” on their foreheads. Girls were showing their magnificent breasts on the Internet. It was magic.
I wanted to write stuff. I wanted to write funny. I wanted to write meaningful. I wanted to write silly and political and deep and — crap, I wanted to write about whatever was affecting me. Truth be told, I wanted to be Mike Royko, the late legendary Chicago newspaper columnist.
So I set up this web site, Rusty Brain. It looked like this. I built the web site from scratch, using Photoshop and FrontPage (yeah, I know FrontPage sucks, you don’t need to e-mail me). And I started writing these long humor columns. That’s how I thought of it, as the web version of a newspaper column. I also did illustrations to go with some of the columns, which was good practice for my meager, undeveloped art skills.
I ended up writing 21 columns over the next 18 months. During that time, some 500 people signed up to be notified when I wrote something, kind of an early version of an RSS feed. Maybe — I’m still not really sure how those RSS feeds work. It was pretty cool, but it was a lot of work.
A couple of people have said, “You were creating a blog before blogs hit the big time!” Yes. No. Maybe. It wasn’t really a blog, per se. I painstakingly wrote and edited the pieces because I intended each piece to be a free standing essay. I illustrated most of the pieces. And I hand coded the thing and archived the old material by hand. It was a royal P.I.T.A. I would spend three to four entire evenings in my basement, ignoring my wife and any sense of a responsible bedtime, just to get one new column published.
The writing was good. Some columns were published in magazines. Some were read on radio shows. I made friends around the globe with people who wanted to tell me about their cats and experiences buying domain names and disgust over the mourning of celebrities.
I loved it, but it got to be too much work. In early 2002, I quit my job to start my own design and advertising company (Idea Shop). I wrote one Rusty Brain column soon thereafter, and haven’t touched the web site since.
So I was way early on the blog scene, kind of, and now, as I renew Rusty Brain as a real blog, I’m way late. Slate Magazine recently proclaimed that the Blog gold rush is over. My chances at fame and fortune are virtually nil. I missed the boat.
What better time to start than now?
Thursday, March 8th, 2001
At the airport bookstore, there are only about a dozen freestanding shelves of books. It’s Darwinian selection at its most brutal: only the most popular authors, the newest novels, and the most recognizable classics survive. You won’t find the lesser known works of Oscar Wilde or Voltaire or even Hemingway â€” there isn’t space for them. Jane Austen makes only the briefest appearance, and Edgar Allen Poe shows his face only at Halloween. There are no collections of poetry beyond Dr. Seuss.
There is, however, a whole rack of self help books.
Americans are obsessed with making ourselves better. Smarter. Thinner. You can buy books to improve your vocabulary. You can devour a stack of books that will teach you to work more efficiently, more ruthlessly, and claw your way to the top â€” and then you can read books on how to stop and smell the roses and enjoy your life more fully. There are even books that will teach you how to organize your closets.
All of these things dance around the essential truth: we want to be happy. We want to be loved. We want to find meaning in our lives and feel that our contributions make a difference.
This, then, is the Rusty Brain Guide: How To Be Happy.
- Eat more cookies. Abstaining from a single cookie isn’t going to make you look svelte and toned. Go on, eat some cookies. I recommend the double chocolate ones with chocolate chips inside.
- Sing. In your car. In elevators. At the mall, especially at Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. In hospital corridors. Before important client meetings. When people give you that patronizing look, wink at ‘em.
- Make Popsicles.
- Stay home on the weekend and disconnect your phone.
- Bring a plastic straw to a fancy restaurant. Make loud gurgling sounds when you get to the bottom as you attempt to drink every last molecule of diet Coke.
- Order the stuff on the menu that you’ve never heard of â€” like Gkaeng Cheud Bplah Meuk Yad Sai (Stuffed Squid Soup with Napa Cabbage or Squash).
- Talk to strangers.
- Collect something weird that isn’t expensive but is relatively hard-to-find.
- Wear odd hats in public places.
- Amass a jar of coins. Bury them in your back yard. Draw a treasure map and give it to a friend.
- Walk to the park near your house. Do some somersaults. When was the last time you did a somersault, anyway?
- Eat pickles out of the jar.
- Build a Web site and write your own Rusty Brain column (Matt only).
- Spend a day by yourself. Leave your cell phone at home. Wander the streets, muttering to yourself and occasionally disagreeing with what you’ve just muttered.
- Buy a puppy. Name it Charo.
- Get your teeth capped. Move to Hollywood. Become a star. (Isn’t that what you’ve been dreaming about anyway?)
- Wear thong panties under your habit (nuns only).
- Throw a surprise birthday party for a friend. Invite lots of people. Make sure that your friend’s actual birthday is nowhere near the date of the party.
- Belch in public. Then sigh contently.
- Suntan naked on a public beach. Adopt a European accent for the day to explain your complete lack of modesty.
- Quit your worthless job and dedicate your life to the study of the Moroccan flute.
- Fly a kite. Go.
- Stop wasting your life with the Moroccan flute and get a real job.
- Volunteer at your library, or church, or your local soup kitchen, or Habitat for Humanity. Wear clothes so ratty that you are often mistaken for one of the “needy.”
- Use the word “Jonesing” as often as possible. As in, “Man, I’m Jonesin’ for some homemade Popsicles.” Studies have shown this will make you happy.
- Join a bowling league. Buy a large red bowling ball. Name it “Gorbachev.”
- Drive to the nearest national forest. Hike a mile with a backpack full of cold fried chicken and biscuits. Find a clearing where you will not meet a single human and have a picnic.
- Stare at the clouds for a full afternoon and dream.
- Think about the things you love to do. Now go do those things more often.
- Meet someone, fall in love, live happily ever after.
Our motto: Happiness is just another word for unsadness.
Tuesday, February 13th, 2001
Illustration by Tim Noreen
- The garage shall be forever kept as the sacred realm of the Man. No lacy curtains nor gingham privacy panels shall be allowed on the windows of the sacred garage.
- The garage shall not be cleaned, except in cases of extreme need, such as when a pair of holy Vise-Grip locking pliers hath gone missing.
- Sawdust, grease, and oil are the holy sacraments of the garage, and thus must never be disposed of in haste or with malice.
- Honor thy rags.
- Complaineth not when the Man’s Friends cometh over to work on a four-wheel-drive vehicle on a Thursday night until 2:00 a.m. Be thee grateful that the Man and his Friends are not attending stimulating performances of voluptuous harlots at Shotgun Willies on this evening.
- Thou shalt not remove the beer bottles from the front yard before work in the garage hath yet been completed. Yea, the front yard must be considered an extension of the garage when the garage door remaineth in an upright and horizontal position.
- Honor the Man and his Friends at all times, even when one of these Friends dropeth a heavy steel truck wheel in the driveway at 12:30 a.m., awakening thyself and wrathful neighbors who calleth to complain.
- Storeth not antique doll houses in the garage.
- Thou shalt not ask the Man to bring in the groceries when you see that his hands are greasy, or that he is underneath a car working on the evil U-joint.
- Adjust not the volume of music that playeth in the garage. Impose not your questionable music tastes on those who savor the druidic chant of Rage Against The Machine at 11 p.m.
- Borroweth not the hammer of the Man which hangeth in position on the blessed pegboard. If thou breakest this commandment, at least have the courtesy to place the hammer back in correct position on the blessed pegboard. No, putting it on the workbench isn’t good enough â€” how wouldst the man know to looketh there?
- Tools of the garage shouldst remain in the garage at all times, excepting when the Man shall use them for home repair, in which case the sacred tools must remain wherever the Man leaves them, verily including even the kitchen counter and the upstairs hallway.
- Leaveth not the tools of the Man on the back porch, lest they become rusty from rain.
- Loaneth not the tools of the Man to your fishy work friends who hath not earned tools of their own.
- Pulleth not your car into the garage whilst a repair doth transpire in the other bay. The space is needed for many great deliberations and ritual beer drinking. Considereth any snow removal that may be required from your vehicle the next morning as a small penance to pay in comparison to the bloody knuckles, hangover, and bodily suffering borne by the Man.
- Closeth the trash can at all time, lest the stinking odor of cat poop foul the air.
- Covet not the eleven Phillips head screwdrivers on the Man’s pegboard, and cast not thy insults on the Man’s need for additional screwdrivers in the future. Each screwdriver serves a unique, substitution-impossible purpose.
- Thou shalt not remove the multitude of straightened, oddly-formed, spray-paint-encrusted coat hangers dangling from the garage ceiling. Resist the temptation to dispose of these humble tools, and your rewards shall include a freshly painted iron planter â€” as soon as the Man finishes working on his four-wheel-drive vehicle, of course.
- Maintaineth a minimum of six yo-yo’s (retracting tape rulers), or findeth not one when needed.
- A man’s worth shall be measured by the number of cans of partially used spray paint on his shelves. However, the Man will never have the right color for the job at hand.
- Obey the Flat Surface Rule. Always put down the tool you are using on the nearest flat surface. Then look for it elsewhere â€” stopeth for a beer when discouraged.
- Respect the large piece of cardboard against the garage wall. The Man useth it to lay on when he is under the car. Touch it not, lest lightning strike thee dead.
- I sayeth to you: No sweeter sound ever shall be heard than thy own air impact wrench in thy own garage.
- Thou shalt love the smell of grease as thou loveth thyself.
- Take not the name of GOJO Creme Formula hand cleaner in vain, especially in the fruity lemon scent.
Our motto: That spark plug socket must be here somewhere.
Monday, September 11th, 2000
A few weeks ago, August 31, was the third anniversary of Princess Di’s death.
I know this because I read it on the Net, where I get most of my news.
“Princess Diana’s death was a milestone event in Net history, as millions of people flocked to the Web to share their grief by posting to online bulletin boards and building Web page shrines.” MSNBC, August 30, 2000
Whether historians will look to Diana’s death as an “Important Internet Event” on par with, say, the release of Netscape 3.0 is debatable. But it’s another issue that the MSNBC article brought to mind that I’d like to flog to a bloody pulp.
Here’s the thing that floored me. Why would anyone feel the need to expunge their uncontrollable grief over the death of someone they did not know, with whom they had no personal relationship, and who was a highly privileged, wealthy member of an archaic aristocracy to boot? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing but respect for the person who was Princess Diana. By all accounts, she was kind, gracious, and worked for all the right causes. She was a glowing icon for the country of England. She was a wonderful mother. She was an outstanding role model for women everywhere. She even looked great in polka dots.
So when Lady Di smacked into a wall at 800 mph, it wasn’t like I wanted to throw a party or anything. Far from it! In the early hours, I followed the news and hoped that she might pull through. I cursed the paparazzi. I kept vigil by the TV for the latest developments from the police. I felt sorry for Will and Harry and even Prince Charles, the poor schmuck.
Later, I purchased the special Princess Diana memorial issue of “People” at the grocery store. (However, I did not purchase the collectible commemorative plate that they were hawking on QVC. Those things are pricey.)
Yes, I mourned her passing. No, I did not grieve.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Last year, it was America’s turn to grieve for dead royalty. John F. Kennedy, Jr. died in a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard. It was regrettable, it was a real shame, and I felt bad for the Kennedy family who have lost so many in such awful circumstances.
But again, I did not feel any grief in John John’s passing. I did not know the man.
In fact, JFK Jr.’s death provided the ultimate example of the absurdity of mass public grief over the loss of public figures. In the days following his death, AOL presented an opinion poll in which you could vote on the following:
Which do you think affected the nation more?
- The death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1999.
- The death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
I found this to be ridiculous beyond belief.
Which do YOU think affected the nation more?
The death of the man who…
- Was voted into the nation’s highest office by the citizens of the United States of America.
- Was the first president born in the 20th century, as well as the nation’s first (and so far only) Catholic president.
- Challenged and inspired the nation to win the space race and put a man on the moon.
- Engaged the world’s most powerful military force in a war that tore the nation apart, a war that would be ultimately abandoned without victory.
Or the death of the man who…
- Was voted the “Sexiest Man Alive,” by the editors of People magazine (1988).
- Was well known for failing the New York bar exam twice.
- Started a magazine called “George,” where he “developed a reputation as an editor who took a ‘hands-on’ approach to stories” – then posed nude to increase sales and publicity for the magazine.
Look, I’ve got absolutely nothing against JFK Jr. – he seemed like a nice guy and he never ran for office, which he could have because he was a “Kennedy.” That’s big points as far as I’m concerned. But which affected the nation more? Give me a break.
MY SPECIAL TALENT FOR BEING A JERK REARS ITS UGLY HEAD
All of these thoughts about the idiocy of experiencing grief for the death of public figures left me feeling quite morally superior as I read MSNBC’s story about the third anniversary of Diana’s demise. “How can people grieve for someone with whom they have no real-world relationship?” I thought to myself smugly. “I’ve never done that. I can’t imagine that the death of ANY public figure would make me grieve enough to write a sappy poem, or maintain a memorial Web site, or…
Then I remembered Kurt Cobain.
I can hear you thinking, “Morally superior? You chastise us for grieving Diana, a princess turned humanitarian, a role model for children, a veritable saint who walked the Earth? You sick, celebrity-worshipping scum! You grieved over the death of a heroin junkie rock star (worth millions) who shot himself in the head rather than face up to the fact that he didn’t want to be a rock star anymore?”
Yep. That’s me. I grieved for Kurt Cobain like he lived next door. I guess I felt like I DID know him personally, since I’d listened to the words of so many of his songs. I felt like he was the voice of – well, not really my generation, since I never really identified with my generation of paisley-wearing, Polo-shirted, Whitney Houston-listening idiots. But I felt like he was the voice of those of us who never really fit in, the unfashionable, the nerdy, the people who were always picked last for sports, who would rather watch Brazil than Top Gun, who’d rather read an obscure book about depressed botanists than play golf, who dress funny, look funny, have peculiar ideas, and who will always harbor vast insecurities about themselves no matter how successful they grow up to be.
He was the anti-Mick Jagger. He was our hero.
Kurt Cobain was a terrible rock star. He didn’t really like being in the limelight, he wrote sensitive songs, he was a feminist. He weighed like 120 lbs. He wore cardigan sweaters and dyed his hair pink. He screwed up even when he didn’t want to screw up.
He was both sensitive AND dangerous to the establishment. These days you can easily find any ONE of these qualities, via Sarah McLachlan or Eminem, but nobody out there is doing both. And Britney Spears and NSYNC don’t even bother to pretend.
Yeah, he was stupid. He got addicted to smack and was obsessed with suicide. He married someone who LOVED being a star and was obsessed with fame. And although he had minimal obligations, the freedom of wealth, and the adoration of millions, he blew his brains out with a shotgun in his garage.
He could have done anything he wanted. He could have destroyed his guitars, divorced Courtney Love, and holed up like J. D. Salinger. He could have lived in a box in Montana, released bluegrass songs on cassette tape, and appeared in person only at the soup kitchen where he volunteered to serve the elderly homeless insane.
What a cretin.
But yeah, I grieved the day his dead body was discovered in that garage. I sometimes feel a twinge of regret when I hear “All Apologies.” I wonder what music he would have composed by now, and what music he would have continued to write as we both grew old. After all, he was a few years younger than me.
What a waste.
I GET THE PICTURE NOW
To all you Princess Diana fans, admirers, and mourners out there, my condolences. She was a great lady.
“All events have a half life. What’s interesting about Diana’s is how long her half-life has extended. In moments of really intense grief, in a culture where people have trouble expressing that grief with one another, an online service is the ideal center for people to express really deep and powerful emotions. This was national catharsis, that’s the point. We’ve seen this again and again since then.” Jesse Kornbluth, editorial director of America Online, as quoted by MSNBC, August 30, 2000
I originally wrote this piece in September 2000. No other Rusty Brain piece has generated as much e-mail as this one, mostly from barely-literate teenagers who think I’m dissing their anti-hero, Kurt Cobain.
Feel free to continue sending me hate mail, but before you do, read the piece again. I liked Kurt Cobain. That was, and still is, the point.