On Blogging

The 17 reasons you will like and share this post

This is difficult to write, so I’ll just get to the point.

The links that you all post to Facebook have grown tiresome.

Therefore, as of 2014, I will no longer be clicking anything you post there.

Nor will I comment on or “like” your blathering status updates.

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Don’t take it personally. I’m just tired.

Tired of following every bit of online nonsense your palsied mouse-clicking finger shares, either from sheer meme-reflex, or worse, from a preposterous notion that I give a shit.

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Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault that I have to say these things. I suffer from a real syndrome in which your links, status updates, political causes, pictures of meals (bought, made, or pooped), essentially everything that you draw my attention to on Facebook makes me violently ill.

Medical authorities call it Acute Facebook Fatigue, regardless of what WINZ says about it every time they reject my disability application.

Believe me. It’s the sickness talking, not me, when I say I’d rather drill a hole in my own teeth than pay a lick of attention to your Facebook feed.

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When I see a link posted on Facebook with a caption like, “you won’t believe what happens next” or “these seven pictures of plumber’s crack will restore your faith in humanity,” I feel used.

Stop manipulating me. Maybe I don’t want to have a happy birthday. Maybe I don’t want to know how many of the 100 best novels ever I’ve read.

I used to follow all those links, and I liked a lot of them, and made hilarious comments that, in retrospect, your link never deserved.

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Unfortunately, my particular syndrome attacks the part of the brain responsible for bullshit-tolerance.

The Fatigue forces me to ignore all your links, regardless of how I might actually feel about the content of those links.

Downtown Saturday

What makes me sickest of all are these stupid, self-promoting posts from bloggers, photo-mosaic “artists”, cat fanciers, atheists, and spreaders of Fukushima Godzilla scenarios.

These fucking people make me sick most of all. Who cares if you like to take photographs with your shitty android phone of places most people don’t really care about to look at?

It doesn’t get much more vain and desperate than an adult sharing badly taken photographs. If it were me, I’d only take photographs of my most recent bowel movement, describing the food that it once was, and what that food tasted like.

This would eliminate 33 percent of all facebook posts, while illustrating the ramifications of eating an entire Christmas cake, by yourself, with the refrigerator door open.

But, I have far too much dignity to stoop to such public self-absorption.

Make no mistake, if you post a picture of your leavings, you will be ignored most of all.

So, let’s start the New Year right, ok? Consider yourself ‘Liked’ until next December 31.

And don’t forget to Like and Share on Facebook.

Happy 2014.

[[First draft, no proofing, photos were taken in Parnell, Britomart, and Tairua, assembled in mosaic form.]]

Can you see the real me?

I had a disturbing thought.

If you’re reading this, chances are I know you personally.

I wish that wasn’t true.

Not that I wish I didn’t know you personally. For the most part. But that you regulars are people that knew me already. And I need fresh meat.

I categorize all of you in one (or more) of the following cohorts of PEOPLE WHO…

…SAY I REMIND THEM OF WOODY ALLEN

Self Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 1

Give me a break. Friends back in the US have made this comparison. Inevitably, after a few minutes, they realize how horribly wrong they are.

I’m much more of an Adam Sandler.

I haven’t known any Kiwis long enough for them to figure that out yet. Not even Jacquie.

Since I moved here in late 2009, I’ve had a few encounters in which someone I met eight seconds ago says I’m just like Woody Allen.

Why? Because I’m a fucking pedophile who married my own adopted daughter? Or because the smattering of good movies I’ve made floats on a sea of laborious filmic masturbation?

Hey. I’ve got another theory. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because I look like this:

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I’ll admit it. I have a big, fat, juicy, honking Hebrew-style schnoz. It is the only human feature in the world the same shape and size as the state of Israel.

Granted, not a lot of people in New Zealand know from Jewish. They haven’t had a lot of experience in handling Jews.

So, what do they do when they meet one for the first time? They reach for the most accessible likeness in their minds.

“You remind me of Woody Allen.”

They don’t mean anything by it.

But I hope they’ll consider something for the next time we meet. While it is true that I resemble something from a 1936 Nazi propaganda poster, that misshapen globulous bit at the end there comes from my maternal grandmother. Who happened to be of Swedish descent. And currently missing the tip of his nose.

So next time you see me, do our relationship a favor. Tell me I look like one the guys from ABBA.

The one that doesn’t smoke.

….POLITELY IGNORE MY NOSE

Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 2

Not to put too fine a point on it, but my nose is probably the most prominent feature on my head.

It insults my intelligence when you act like it’s not even there.

I can always spot them. They’re the ones that use the phrase, “cut off your nose to spite your face” in passing.

Then they immediately start to blush.

They should be embarrassed. If I were to cut off my nose, it wouldn’t just spite my face. It would rip that bitch from my skull. It’s so deeply entrenched, it would take part of my brain with it.

So do me a favor next time you see me. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Call a schnoz a schnoz.

And tell me you’re proud I’ve given up smoking.

3….HAVE TRIED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME ABOUT RELIGION OR POLITICS.

Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 3

Some of you know me as “that angry, belligerent drunken bastard”. Perhaps you saw me at a party. Or you simply passed me on the street, and relaxed once you realized I’d only been screaming at myself.

No matter how hard you’ve tried to reason with me, there’s nothing you can do to calm me down.

There’s no use even trying. By the time you distract him with a fresh martini, “that angry, belligerent, drunken bastard” has already been replaced by “that angry, sobbing, ex-boyfriend” or “that angry, drunken guy vomiting on the coats piled up in the bedroom”.

So, be vigilant around me. Sensitize yourself to those subtle changes to my personality. And offer me a drink.

But never ever after Friday, August 2, offer me a smoke.

4. …TOLERATE ME FOR PRETENDING TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SCIENCE, ART OR LITERATURE.

Portrait of the writer as bona fide moron 4

Others have had the pleasure of experiencing my pontification on subjects I know nothing about.

I thank you, especially.  You’re the ones who always stand by my side the whole way. You always wait until I’ve run out of breath, before you start in on whatever tedious subject you want to prattle on about.

A thousand times, thank you.

But the next time I run out of breath, don’t you dare fucking interrupt me like that again.

And if I’m smoking, you can call me an asshole. Because I’m not smoking anymore.

Not after Friday.

5…HAVE TRIED TO ENJOY A MEAL WHILE SITTING ANYWHERE NEAR ME.

Photo on 27-07-13 at 2.21 PM #2

These people face some very conflicted feelings whenever they sit down for a meal with me.

On the one hand, watching me feed myself is a horrific experience. And I’m always shocked at how people can tolerate it.

I eat fast. It comes from growing up in a big family with sometimes limited resources. Family meals could get pretty hairy, growing up. One of my sisters stabbed one of my brothers to death in a fight over an Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie. That’s the sister that is missing most of her right index finger, from the time she was eating a sandwich so fast, she didn’t notice she’d been biting off her digit until well after the second knuckle.

That’s because the only alternative to fighting was to eat as quickly as possible. To this day, I can’t view a dinner invitation as anything but a hostile gesture. To me, that’s just an invitation to Thunderdome. Two hands in, one hand out.

You don’t ever put that kind of conditioning behind you.

Which is why watching me eat is like watching one of those nature shows about the animals of the Serengeti. It’s the scene where millions of migrating gazelles have to ford this alligator-infested river. The only way to get through is to be quick and outrun. In the TV shows, they always show the few that do get snagged. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a cautionary tale for the other gazelles.

But watching me eat is even worse than the TV show. Because me eating is like there’s one huge Jewish looking alligator waiting for the gazelles. And he eats each one. And they all gladly leap to their death. Because it is delicious. And because they are thrilled to serve such an important role in the ecosystem, they run faster and faster, eager to join their friends that have gone before them.

On the other hand, you can’t smoke when you’re eating.

You may have noticed a pattern emerging in this post: I’m an absolute narcissist.

But I’m also a cigarette smoker. And I don’t want to be anymore. And as of Friday, August 4, I won’t be.

It doesn’t matter how you know me, but you’ve all helped me out before, in one way or another, and now I’m asking for your help, once again.

Help enforce my quit by the potential for shame.

Keep coming back here. Tell people what I’m doing. Leave a comment, or even just to click on the link, and move on.

You don’t have to read, but I will be blogging about my quit as much as possible. Jacquie will enforce transparency, so if I smoke, you will know.

And you’ll have a chance to tell me what you think about it.

I’m doing other things to quit, but I’m hoping the potential for shame will help.

The more people that come here, the more I will feel compelled to stay quit and save face.

Such as it is.

Thanks for your help, once again. I appreciate the support.

[[Fourth draft, it's 3:36 in the morning]]

Exhibitionists like us

Every time I watch All the Presidents Men or the fifth season of The Wire, I give a loud cheer for the research librarians. Then I rewind and play the two seconds again.

It was sheer luck that I was able to work in such an anachronistic role for four years. This is not the kind position a lot of newspapers have around anymore. But the New York Post has a fantastic paper clip archive going back to its “Shipping News” days in the early 1800s. It probably would have cost half-a-billion dollars to digitize. Much less expensive to hire me to swat the rats away from the stacks in the basement.

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The research part of the job sometimes required, if not smarts, then certainly the ability to finesse data quickly for reporters on tight deadlines. We usually got a call from one of them right after Mike Hechtman yelled at them.

Hechtman, by the way, was as much an institution at the city desk as he was a newsroom “featured personality”. He was one of those fast-talking, street-wise tabloid veterans, irascible and high-strung, but who knew his stuff and, in my movie, is played by an old Jewish woman who just found out her son is marrying a goy.

To tell the truth, I loved dealing with Hechtman for all those qualities, but unless we were chatting about our respective cats, I preferred it be over the telephone. He scared the shit out of me. He’s probably the reason why I didn’t step foot into the newsroom for three years.

But even if I kept to myself in the library (which I regretted later), there were moments of excitement back there too. It was nice getting a call from the newsroom. Once in a while, it felt like you were doing something important. Then you realize you’re searching Nexis for clips on how much Eliot Spitzer paid for a blowjob. Then you feel really, really proud, to boot.

I liked the people I worked with in the library, mainly because I was alone most of the time, but also because they were good company. I even liked Bruce Furman, despite our  occasional differences. He liked to say that the librarians were “the ones that made the bullets”, in reference to our place at the paper. They were characters in their own rights, if not as brassily stress-inducing as Hechtman was.

For the most part, the reporters and editors were fine to work with as well. Except for Mandy Stadtmiller. She was something else.

Mandy Stadtmiller had the personality one might associate with the differently-abled love-spawn of two first cousins among the Landed Gentry; an outsized sense of privilege accompanied by a neo-cortex that only generations of inbreeding could come up with.

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I came across Mandy Stadtmiller’s name today while pursuing a different blog idea.

I hadn’t thought about her since I left the Post in 2009. She is a standup comedian and a blogger who is now somewhat famous for writing explicitly about her painfully dull existence.

And she has received some attention recently, along with criticism for “oversharing” her personal life. I see her writing as the blog equivalent to a deranged stranger showing me the Biore strip she’d just pulled off her nose.

Speaking as an exhibitionist, both online and in shopping malls, I don’t see anything wrong with letting it all hang out. The problem with Mandy is that she doesn’t know how to finesse it. Just kind of chucks the dirty undies in your face while braying like a donkey.

Worse than her writing, and the more salient point to this post, is her personality.

****

One afternoon in 2008, Mandy emailed the library to ask for a search to be done. It was before the early deadline, which is the busiest time for Mike Hechtman to come talk to me about his cats. Requests for clips, addresses and dates of birth always piled up.

Mandy and another reporter were working on an assignment, and Mandy was in over her head. Every few minutes she sent a new request to the library for information, which were piling up and sometimes overlapping with the other reporter’s requests.

So I asked Mandy, “If it’s not too much trouble, could you please collect all subsequent requests in one e-mail?”

To which Mandy replied:

Sorry – I don’t have time –  I’m scrambling just as much as you are – ****** put me on this yesterday – I’m not a political reporter so I don’t have time to be perfectly organized in my emailing requests to library – thanks for your help – please. I need you to be here to support, make my life easier, do the googling requests & anticipate instead of me having to do & beg for ur help – I shoulda been gone @ 6 just like ***** ****** but instead am here working late, pitching in, being a team player, trying to do what I can – so please, please, please do what you can as we;ll, ok? It’s really, really appreciated. Thanks a million. Truly appreciated – all your help.

Then I says to her, I says, I go

Unfortunately, you’re not the only reporter on deadline. I’ll do what I can.

It bothered me for hours after finished working on Mandy’s project that I couldn’t anticipate milady’s caprices. She was even more upset and forwarded our entire email exchange to my boss, who must have asked Mandy if I had fucked up in some way. To which Mandy replied:

Nope – he above & beyond met the needs – 1nce the attitude chnged was all the difference in the world. If reporters are asked 2 go above & beyond then other people shld approach w the same attitude – I leave early all the time – was saying ‘listen work w me – I wish I was gone like laura – but iv been asked 2 do this ridiculous task so am trying – so please 4 the love of christ work w me.’ & he did. & I am super grateful not 2 hv 2 play the game of how I can I best make simon’s life easier – & instead he anticipated & helped & was awesome. Was grt. Gotta do another interview – thanks 4 writing bck & all you do.

I don’t have anything to say about what Mandy wrote, or whatever verb applies to the above passage.

But I do realize that I owe News Whore an apology. So, Mandy. I apologize. The next time I smell you, I’ll anticipate that you’ve left another tampon in your no-no zone, and call the proper environmental agency. The rest of the news room doesn’t need to suffer just because you forgot there was foreign body in your vagina. But, there are all kinds of stuff up in that thing. I’ve read it on your blog.

[[Slightly edited second revision]]

Reader mail

My blog posts attract a constant stream of comments from my fans.

Most of the time, they end up in the spam filter. (I informed WordPress of this issue and they assured me they would give it all the attention it deserves).

Here are just a few examples of the tremendous feedback Basement Life has received.

“Dear Basement Life: This piece of writing presents clear idea designed for the new visitors of blogging, that in fact how
to do running a blog.” — signed “Whatsapp”, (see also: Words that wound, and other Yuletide festivities)

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“I became searching the world wide web testing some things and found your blog. I desired in order to you which i think your blog has some good articles and that I use previously favorited this site so I can pay a visit to again soon realistic alternative.” — “hit”, (On The misconstrued swelling.)

Vince and his new friend

“options, through Psychic Dior, Gucci, Rayban tons o.” — cheap chanel, also in regard to The misconstrued swelling.

“It also allows you to capture & store videos while you are out for a tour or picnic with friends. As you progress to the next higher level, the game becomes tougher. Customers seeing those two price points might hesitate to buy Microsoft’s option”. — “stonemaster”, referring to Jumping the shark…or Everyone loves a kitty.

But my favorite is this comment on The media elite get me so mad sometimes ” posted by a fellow named Testform Xtreme:

“What i do not understood is actually how you are no longer actually a lot more well-preferred than you may be now. You’re very intelligent. You already know thus significantly on the subject of this subject, made me individually believe it from a lot of various angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be involved unless it’s something to do with Lady gaga! Your individual stuffs outstanding. Always take care of it up!”

The feat from 35,000 views

Earlier this month, the Internet shuddered at the news that Basement Life had received its 35,000th page view.

I know, right? Classic rags-to-riches tale. Like Horatio Alger, without the irritating lice-plagued newsies trying to impress everyone with their hustle-bustle.

That kind of in-your-face, sleeves-up initiative that Alger peddled makes everyone who reads him so nauseous that they vomit in their Barnes and Noble bags.

So, tell you what, my fine, ambitious guttersnipe: get with the times, get to the fat fryer, and get me my happy meal before I gouge out your eyes with a frozen chicken nugget.

Sorry. As you can plainly see, all this blog business has elevated my mood slightly.

I mean, it’s not every day you find out that it has taken you three years to get people to read your work, for free, 35,000 times. Sure, most of them came to the website by deceit, the biggest one being that “Justin Bieber Naked” tag I put on every new post.

Now, it doesn’t bother me if you people want to see Justin Bieber Naked pictures, be you a 13-year-old girl, or a 41 year-old-man. And it doesn’t even bother me that adolescent girls and middle-aged gay men share the same taste in pop stars.

I can deal.

happy-man-looking-at-computer

But I can’t live with the fact that I have duped you people on so many occasions. Truth be told, there never were any pictures of Justin Bieber Naked to be found anywhere on Basement Life. And I knew.let it happen. I know how frustrating it can be when the web page you find has nothing to do with what you really wanted, and you already have your pants down. Believe me, friend, I’ve been there. So I’m sorry that I put you through this. And I’m especially sorry to the return visitors who faithfully stopped by everyday, in the hope that I might have changed my mind and posted a Naked Justin Bieber picture, after all.

It was the life. I got carried away. I’m not making excuses, but you have to understand, I was raised from a very young child to be one thing: the world’s most famous blogger. When I started out three years ago, I would have done anything—anyyyyythiiiiing—to wrack up 35,000 page views in three years, the internet equivalent to “going platinum”.

I did what had to be done. I’m not proud. And I’m no hero, make no mistake. And I ain’t got no compass. And I don’t what’s what. And I don’t know much about geology, don’t know much about epistemology, but I do know that the long-anticipated thrill of success left me a little hollow. A little empty.

Someone posted this Don DeLillo quote on Facebook recently. A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. If getting 35,000 visits to a website on the false pretense of viewing an image of Justin Bieber isn’t quintessentially “squandering”, then I don’t know what is. That is to say, I guess I’m just a writer, I suppose.

Overheard conversation at a Newmarket cafe

Got back to work today and immediately went into catchup mode.

Replying to emails, and sorting piles of press releases and such. And going through the files on my digital recorder.

For my job, I have to record every interview, and transcribe it later to be uses in an article. I do this to make sure that what I’m writing is accurate, especially because, even after three years living in New Zealand, I still can’t make out what these Kiwis are blathering on about half the time. I don’t blame them. It’s my hearing. And maybe my perception. The Kiwi accent, in its extreme, is a tough one to love, like really sour lemonade you mom just made. Anyway, some of my best friends are Kiwis.

Hey, good job buddy!

So, I listened to my digital recorder to determine the files I could delete. One of them was something I had completely forgotten.

Last November, I agreed to meet the country manager of a well-known software company near his office in Newmarket for an interview that would go into an article I was writing.

We decided to have our conversation over coffee at Jones the Grocer on Carlton Gore Road. This place is highly recommended. It was the first cafe in New Zealand that didn’t put ice cream in when I ordered an iced coffee. New Yorkers might think of it as what Dean & Deluca was like in the early mid-90s.

Anyway, of course I get there 20 minutes early. A chronic problem, whenever I remember that I have an appointment, is that I inevitably show up way too early. This comes from being the son of a man whose own father was Basic Training at Fort Dix in the early mid-60s.

Good on you, mate!

So I ordered an ice coffee, found a table, put my stuff down and waited.

That’s when I noticed the two pretentious assholes having a really stupid conversation nearby. They were both dressed in suits and ties. One was extremely large, and obviously uncomfortable in his workaday clothes. He sweated profusely, causing him to take off his wire-rim glasses for periodic de-fogging, while muttering to himself ‘Ok. Ok.’ He kind of reminded me of Sasquatch, or perhaps the ill-favored consequence of a union between Han Solo and Chewbacca’s spinster aunt.

Sasquatch was a kiwi. The other guy was American.

What's wrong with bringing a sidearm to a business lunch?

The American was not as large as the Kiwi, but he was by far the greater misshapen. He had a forehead you could dock a zeppelin next to, and mouse-colored hair, and an extremely long nose situated on his face as if somebody had knocked it off his head, then tried to stick it back on using a cheap glue from the $2 store. The texture, color and pudginess of his skin suggested that he was made of a sack of rotting potatoes.

Anyway, after catching a few moments of their incredible conversation, I decided to record them. Which is exactly the file I found today, and transcribed to post here, to share with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

SASQUATCH: I haven’t read any Salman Rushdie. Should I?

POTATO-HEAD: I never read him because of his popularity. Then I read Satanic Verses, to support my preconceived bias.

SASQUATCH: Ya huh. He’s never appealed to me as something special I’d be interested in. Life of Pi comes across as Salman Rushdie Lite. Based on what I assume Salman Rushdie to be like.

POTATO-HEAD: See, now I have to read Life of Pi to understand what you’re talking about. I’m not in the mood for homework.

SASQUATCH: Eh, don’t bother

POTATO-HEAD: Whew. That’s a relief. I’ll just tell people I did, and hated it….I told you about my non-fiction thesis, in creative writing, right?

SASQUATCH: …average story with a non-sensical twist, which is supposed to be thought provoking, but really doesn’t hold together…

POTATO-HEAD: I made myself read five novels on The New York Times Best Seller List. I wanted to know why these books were so popular. The thesis really sucked.

SASQUATCH: I can’t imagine the books were very satisfying.

POTATO-HEAD: Mitch Albom is a man that needs to be disembowelled before a live studio audience, in a television special broadcast around the world. Like the Miss Universe pageant. Then it should be on continuous loop on every network in the world, for a year. People in the Amazon should be shown footage of this upon first contact with modernity.

SASQUATCH: There’re lots of writers like that. Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho…

POTATO-HEAD: Deepak Charlatan.

SASQUATCH:The Alchemist is one of the most tedious things I have ever had the displeasure of reading.

POTATO-HEAD: People say it’s a good thing that people are reading anything these days. Fuck that. I’d rather have a quality 5 percent literacy rate, like they had in the Roman Empire, than to have the 98 percent shit-for-brains mentality that qualifies as “literate” these days. You don’t mind if I use this conversation for a blog post? Or would that be too wanker-ish?

SASQUATCH: I feel bad about the book I’m reading at the moment. It’s terrible. Ambrose-ian hero-worship at its worst. It’s called Dog Company and it’s about the 2nd Ranger Battalion’s assault on Pointe Du Hoc on D-Day.

POTATO-HEAD: D-Day. Sure. From World War II.

SASQUATCH: I love the story. And that is easily my favourite period in history. But he writes like a 12-year-old would about his grandfather. I like the details though. But it’s no Antony Beevor.

POTATO-HEAD: It’s Antony Beevor we’re talking about here.

SASQUATCH: This guy, though. This guy can’t write. I just want the book to be over.

POTATO-HEAD: He’s, it’s thinly veiled hagiography. That’s what it is.

SASQUATCH: I just said that.

POTATO-HEAD: Beevor is a good story teller. Ambrose is much more sepia-toned.

SASQUATCH: This guy. He has interviews and what-not. But no balance, and no perspective. It’s like he’s writing about it with no historical context, that we haven’t had 70 years of contemplation.

POTATO-HEAD: There’s a rush to get a lot of these stories down on paper. This generation is going to disappear soon. It’s like “the world’s oldest civil war widow” kind of thing.

SASQUATCH: They over-look far more interesting aspects though, all the NKVD files that have been closed for decades, the Japanese perspective is still a mystery. I don’t need to hear about another all-american GI or stiff British lip

POTATO-HEAD: Doesn’t matter what you want. You’re not American.

SASQUATCH: The German stories are good too, but mostly they are too embarrassed to talk about….

POTATO-HEAD: Hey, do you know anything about styluses for iPads?

SASQUATCH: I don’t know anything about anything.

POTATO-HEAD: Good. You learned the two most important lessons in life. Never open your mouth. And never rat on your friends.

SASQUATCH: Everybody takes a beating sometimes.

POTATO-HEAD: You know what they say about “Paulie”, they can say the same about your last stint in customer support. “He didn’t like to use the phone.”

SASQUATCH: And every other job I have ever had.

POTATO-HEAD: But for the purposes of your CV, now you have something to say about it. Your role summation could say, “I was like the character Paulie from Goodfellas.” But don’t go into any more detail than that. Save some of the details for your first interview.

SASQUATCH: I could come up with a character for every job..”At Dymocks I was like Nemo from Finding Nemo. At Sky City I was like Hunter S Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

POTATO-HEAD: So, you never answered my question. Would I be a wanker if I posted this conversation on my blog? I wouldn’t use either of our names. I would say that I was in a cafe waiting to meet a source for an interview for work, when I overheard these pretentious assholes talking. Then I would describe the assholes, and pass this off as their conversation as transcribed from my digital recorder.

SASQUATCH: I already said ok. You missed it. Too busy being a pretentious Parnell asshole.

POTATO-HEAD: You say ‘ok’ like it’s a fucking verbal tick. How the fuck am I supposed to know what you’re “OKing” from minute to minute? Oh, god.

SASQUATCH: What, the cream in your latte off or something?

POTATO-HEAD: No. I was just thinking about my idea of posting this conversation as if it were authentic, overheard dialog, when I was suddenly overcome by a wave of nausea.

SASQUATCH: Are you sure that’s not your groin playing up?

POTATO-HEAD: Do you have any preferences as to how I should describe your character in this post? I was thinking of basing you on Sasquatch.

SASQUATCH: I was thinking of something more swash-buckling than Sasquatch, a Han Solo type.

POTATO-HEAD: What if you were the breech-birthed love-child of Han Solo and Chewbacca’s bitch of a sister?

SASQUATCH: Home run.

POTATO-HEAD: Well, better get going. It’s going to take me ages to figure out how to format this as dramatic dialogue.

SASQUATCH: I hate WordPress.

Then the guys left. I would have posted the actual file, but I had to make room on my digital recorder.

Catch you next time, buddy.

A fate worse than walking your cat

A blogger risks his career, everything he’s worked his whole life for, when he begins to exploit his cat for new material.

His beautiful, luxurious and intellectually superior cat.

Money shot 666

What I’m saying is, posting shit like that places me squarely in the borderlands of the crazy-old-loner-guy from the creepy house down the street. Or from Apartment 16F, for you high-density urbanites reading. People, as a general rule, don’t like crazy-old-loner-guy. And that makes me sad. I’ve always known that one day I would become that guy. But I never dreamed it would happen before August. 

You don’t notice how quickly it ages you to post cat pictures and videos, until it’s too late. Suddenly, people stop visiting your blog. I got an email from my mom asking me how I was, and if I could somehow prevent Basement Life from reaching her computer.

The stats give testimony to the fact that my blog has become disconnected from its core audiences. According to WordPress analytics, those would be “depressed insomniacs” and “cats/infants messing around with the keyboard”.

In the past month alone, my daily average page-views total has plummeted a shocking 50 percent, from three to 1.5 now.  Which is about the same time I switched to the 24×7 cat programming format, when I started posting shit like this:

The problem, as you can see, extends well into the physical universe. The video was shot on the afternoon of Waitangi Day, a holiday in honor of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria and many Iwis. It was the beginning of New Zealand. It was an important time for national reflection. And I used my time off work to shoot moronic video of my cat.

The shame. It piles up on me like so many dust bunnies regurgitated by your cat. Not only had the neighbors caught me surveilling Vince on video—a fate worse than being spotted by strangers with Vince on a lead—but then I gotta go post the video to YouTube, add tags, give it a title, and push the link on Twitter and Facebook. What kind of sick, pathetic person would go and do such a thing? The old creepy guy in apartment 16F, that’s whom. Think Gary Busey.

I have several good excuses for what I will call my ‘changing’. In the first place, it’s not my fault. I’m under the influence of a creature who has a far higher brain-to-body mass ratio than Jacquie’s and mine put together. Obviously, having more brain weight available for complex cognitive tasks always implies telepathic influence and control of others. Vince is fucking with our heads, man. Making us do things. Not any kind of inappropriate licking, mind you, just little things like making us open doors, feed him, and stabourselves in the eye with a fork while we’re trying to finish our dinner in peace. That sort of thing.

But I think I’ve turned into Gary Busey for a much more obvious reason. He’s so cute, I don’t mind damaging my sensitive tissue and organs with cutlery. Let alone, to post things like this next one.

To tell you the truth, I wanted to write something else today. About how I’d been in bed for most of the last six days because of an infection in my groin. But as much as I desire to be pitied, don’t feel bad for me because I’ve been sick. Feel bad for me because I’ve turned into an even bigger dork than you could ever imagine.

I’m not dead, or the social contract

Every human civilization has had its laws defined and enforced by a minority in however way it saw fit.

This usually happened as soon as one of them started hoarding enough sheep and old newspapers.

Vince ready to go

Obviously, nobody wants to see anyone lose their old newspaper collection. So the big-shots invented the law.

It’s true for all the great civilizations. I mean, the really good ones. The kind of civilization that gets its own unit in a seventh grade social studies curriculum.

A few big-wigs making the rules for everyone else. From the Indus Valley to the Fertile Crescent to the Shang Dynasty—what many experts call “the food-court at Westfield’s”—temporal authority was always substantiated by divine right and favor.

What were the odds of that happening?

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What’s even more of a coincidence is all the rules turned out to be complete rubbish.

Like, what idiot came up with not eating bacon? And how is it that someone got so paranoid they had to come up with a prohibition against borrowing your neighbor’s wife/livestock/power tool, in no particular order of preference, just for a minute because you swear you were planning to give them back as soon as you were finished?

If there weren’t pointless taboos, dietary restrictions, resource-consuming rituals and time-hungry ablutions, then why have civilization in the first place? Some of us have to be immune.

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That is the whole point of Crime and Punishment, and the reason for this blog post, which I urge high school students to submit in their AP Literature class if they don’t feel like doing the work themselves. I’m more than happy to help. As Dostoyevsky writes:

“The thing of it is, Sonia,” said Raskolnikov, munching on a toasted bialy, “murdering your landlady is the same as putting the toilet seat down after taking a piss. It’s someone else’s rules, man. People make shit up like that all the time just to fuck with your head. For real.”

(Emphasis added).

I agree. Conventions and rules are for suckers.

***

Another beautiful summer day at the bach

That’s why I refuse to help anyone choking in a restaurant.

If you and I were enjoying a nice meal out together, and you started choking, you’d be on your own. The fact is, I am incapable of learning the Heimlich Maneuver. So, if you’re choking at dinner with me, you will die before I can figure out what’s going on in the choking victim poster you see in a lot of restaurants. I can never make heads or tails of those things. To me it looks more like “what to do if you’re the lead of a mid-80s hair band and you’re attacked from behind by a lesbian gym teacher”. Which really doesn’t apply in most situations.

So, if you choke at dinner, don’t come crying to me later if I continue eating my dinner as if nothing has happened, while another patron resuscitates you. I’m not the one who ruined an otherwise perfect evening.

But even if I did know the Heimlich Maneuver, I would think twice before I helped you. If you can’t chew your food properly before swallowing, maybe it’s just a sign that you shouldn’t be eating in a restaurant in the first place.

Ideas just flow in my head like taking a picture of a reflection which nobody has ever done before

The best I could probably do for you is encourage you in your time of crisis. I will be right there, cheering you on with “Looking good” and “It’ll be over soon.” I’ve always been a great morale booster. There have been jobs when I saw it as my duty to console my supervisor whenever I screwed up. If anyone can say, “there, there. I understand.” it’s me.

Don’t thank me. I’m just fulfilling my part of the social contract.

This blog’s in trouble

The New York Times ran a disturbing article the other day with serious implications for this blog:

Google said late Thursday that it had made a major change to its algorithm in an effort to improve the rankings of high-quality Web sites in its search results — and to reduce the visibility of low-quality sites. (Emphasis added for dramatic purposes).

Ahhhh, shit. You know what this means. The party’s over. Basement Life has always relied on Google’s obliging promotion of lesser known websites to boost traffic. Web visits, accidental or not, are what maintains the fragile ego and quenches the vanity of today’s inept and shiftless blogger.  Now, how am I supposed to attract the naive, bored or easily manipulated to my blog if Google starts weeding out low-quality sites from its searches? Or am I overreacting?

Google updates its search algorithm 500 times a year, the Times reports, so it’s nothing new and most of these are minor tweaks that nobody notices anyway.

But this one’s a major change.

Jacquie says it’s likely that Google didn’t even have Basement Life in mind with this particular tweak. But that kind of thinking just strains credulity. I mean, this Google blog post quoted by the Times practically mentions me by name:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites (Editor: my ears are burning) — sites which are low-value add for users (Guilty, your honor; but hey, they get what they pay for and they like it just fine), copy content from other Web sites (So true. But I can’t very well copy and paste from actual books, newspapers or magazines, now, can I?) or sites that are just not very useful (what does “useful” mean?)…At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites — sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

The truth is, though, Google hasn’t specified what content the updated algorithm is targeting. There’s speculation that it’s meant to reduce hits from “content farms” like eHow and Answerbag which “generate articles based on popular search queries so they will rise to the top of the rankings and attract clicks.”

Wait, I thought they wanted to promote quality websites, not hide them under a bushel. What’s the matter with eHow? Talk about useful. I’d be lost without eHow. It’s instructed me in so many things, from boiling water, to glomming new stuff from companies by pretending to be a consumer disappointed in their products, to how to give myself a fabulous haircut with a Flowbee, the revolutionary home haircutting system.

 

 

Now if something that useful is getting the bum rush from google, what chance does Basement Life have?

In the Blink of a Simile

Science writers are clever.

Whenever they want to impress upon a reader that a very long period of time is not so long in a geological context, they break out the inevitable blink-of-an-eye simile.

For example, when the Christian Science Monitor reported in a June 4 article that whales took only 5 million years to evolve, they quoted one researcher as saying:

Five million years is like the blink of an eye.

National Public Radio’s Andrea Seabrook made a similar assertion in a 2008 segment of Science out of the Box when she stated that the Holocene epoch

…began 12,000 years ago, a mere blink of the eye in geologic time.

And a story in USA Today from 2004 about volcanic eruptions in the Pacific Northwest of the US said:

…Rainier hasn’t blown big-time in 500 years — hardly a blink of an eye in geologic time.

Finally, Time Magazine, in a 2008 piece about climate change wrote:

In less than a human lifetime — barely the blink of an eye in geologic time — a way of life millenniums old will be lost here.

The simile by itself is just a conventional illustration of proportion. But taking the above examples together with all their discrepancies, one is left with a disturbing question.

Why can’t science writers blink like the rest of us?

One theory is that science writers are aliens from another solar system and thus have no eyelids. They have travelled great distances in space and time to come to this planet and write for USA Today. This would explain why these writers know so much about everything, but are woefully ignorant about blinking.

But that’s just one stupid theory for one of my more inane pet peeves. I’ve lost sleep wondering how much a blink of an eye really is in geologic time. Is it five million years? 12,000? 78?

The answer, as it turns out, is none of these.

Here’s why: Assuming the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the average life expectancy of a white man in New Zealand is 78 years (rounding down), then one year in geologic time is 1/78 of 4.5 billion, or 58.2 million years. A geologic month, then, is 1/12 of 58.2 million years, or 4.8 million years; and so on, subdividing time in like fashion down to .4 seconds, the average duration of a human blink.

Here, then, is a proper use of the blink-of-an-eye simile:

Woman-in-Labor: Finally. I thought this baby would never come out.

Helpful Physician: Ma’am, you might think nine-and-a-half months is a long time to be carrying around a baby, but it’s only a blink of the eye in geologic time. So get over yourself.

Now, applying my scale to some of the aforementioned stories, I come up with better and more accurate similes. For example:

In less than a human lifetime — roughly six blinks of a normal, non-catotonic human’s eye in geologic time — a way of life millenniums old will be lost here.

Here’s another one:

The Holocene epoch began 12,000 years ago, a mere feature-length movie called Bring it On starring Eliza Dushku in geologic time.

And finally:

Five million years is like the amount of time it took for my anti-psychotic meds to finally kick-in in geologic time.

Yes, unfortunately this is what I spend much of my time thinking about.