June 06, 2009

Shameless Revisionism: Genre-Bending Gonzo #2

So like I said about a month ago, I have these periodic compulsions to anthologize myself and the twisted, derivative things I write. I call it "Shameless Revisionism" because that's what all compilations are, and also because about this time last summer I re-jiggered this blog to suit these vain impulses, resulting in this series of posts. There are all kinds of categories—fiction, music, journalism, rants—but sometimes a particular post won't fit cleanly into neat little boxes like those, and instead straddle genres and generally screw up my glorious plans to leave a significant legacy of work on the web.

For the first installment of this new round of Shameless Revisionism (covering relatively recent stuff, 2008-09ish), then, I've repeated previous practice and collected the random crap deemed worthy by an expert panel of one, including appropriate Liner Notes of Wisdom where applicable. Click on an essay title link to see the whole post:

Mighty Radical Awesome Power in the Sandbox (Sep. 28, 2008)
Initially a reply to one of my friend Captain Nick's many emails from Iraq, this goofy rant seems like the perfect way to start things off. I'd interviewed him over email during his first tour in 2005 (he commanded a tank), and in '08 he'd returned for a second tour and a slightly different assignment: teaching "basic soldier shit" to the Iraqi army. For this, he was given a very special toy: the MRAP vehicle. I immediately knew how he could use these newfound skills upon his return to the States (which should be any day now):

A hybrid tank-dump truck is truly something else. You could take that bastard on a tour of every monster truck rally in the country and stomp everyone flat while making a shitload of money. I mean, would those other guys have on-board artillery? I'm thinking no. If it can take Mesopotamian combat, it can damn well take Anaheim Stadium on Sunday Sunday Sunday. Mark my words, man- once this shit is all over, there will be a surfeit of differently-skilled MRAP drivers looking for work, and who better to snap them right up than the very same contractors who trained you guys how to drive these things?
When Living in Paradise Totally Blows (Nov. 18, 2008)
This one's sort of a token, only included to round out the rest, and definitely the least compelling of the set. Even so, gonzo rants are gonzo rants, despite whatever mental or physical weaknesses they may reveal—like a sustained hatred for Santa Ana winds:
Yes, folks, I'm gonna be one of those people who whines and bitches too much about the fucking weather—the weather that we Southern Californians are somehow not supposed to understand or experience. Indeed, many of us go all to pieces after the first rains of the season trickle in, forgetting how to drive in inclement conditions and devolving into idiot teenage speed-demons on the slick freeways of the Southland. But good goddamn, when the fiendish easterlies begin booming in from Death Valley—and certain other places someone like Cain would recognize—and start sparking violent orgies of flame from the San Andreas to the sea, it doesn't just ask to be whined about; it demands a full-scale hair-tearing and Hawaiian-shirt-rending. And yet somehow, this appropriate and necessary reflex is waved off as a weakness by some of my more esteemed neighbors.
I'd Still Rather Shiver Than Fry (Dec. 7, 2008)
This entry, and the three after it, are daily diaries from a cold winter in Boston, where I was sent on a business trip to attend the Web Design World convention. All together, they make a fun but pretty bitchy extended travelogue I've since named "When Web Geeks Invaded the Commonwealth." Day 1 went like this:
After a quiet $30 cab ride through the bowels of Boston (yeah, I'll take the T on the way back, thanks), I ended up at the Park Plaza, still dazed from the plane's recycled air combined with the icy sting of the East. The fastidious hotel desk attendant, a sharp-dressed young black man, did get slightly confused by my multiple exotic French names, but it was soon sorted out—hell yes, the Gentleman has a Major Credit Card; don't you know who you're talking to?—and within minutes I was ensconced up on the ninth floor, scarfing through the trappings of room service and peering out onto the frigid streets below. It was loud and boisterous outside—Boston is a City of Youth, with approximately 236 colleges in or around town—but I was in no mood to mingle with the spoiled children of Cambridge or Back Bay, even as they cavorted like wild dingos in heat. I am, after all, a Professional—not, as my lovely wife described me, "a man about town."
Skittish Creatives Desperate for Respect (Dec. 8, 2008)
My notes on the first day of the convention for web geeks. I made friends and enemies right away, and was mightily impressed by the collective knowledge of The Industry. The result, however, was something a little less than the truth, shall we say.
The tone was set right away: a criminally chirpy emcee welcomed everyone with a jolt of enthusiasm right out of high school student government, but that was tempered soon enough by the day's keynote speaker. A grizzled veteran of the early '90s web biz, he regaled us with horror story after horror story, gradually creeping toward the obvious thesis of "Web Designers Ain't Got No Props, Yo." Which is true these days, more or less—now that giddy, venture-capitalistic investors aren't throwing money around like they were a decade ago. It was a twelve-step keynote speech of Doom and Danger, leavened by a single slide with the word "Trust," accompanied by the Elvis Costello album cover of the same name, and somewhere, Bret Easton Ellis shuddered with adolescent embarrassment.
The Snide Lashings of Aesthetic Deconstruction (Dec. 9, 2008)
The convention's second and final day was less exciting from a discussion standpoint, with one glaring exception: a "deconstruction" session where the assembled panelists roasted the design and development skills of anyone dumb enough to submit their company's site for review. Unfortunately for one of my new friends, she took the bait, and paid for it with a crippling anxiety attack.
The panel—comprised of several lecturers from the convention—was not kind. Indeed, while we'd been attempting to staunch the flow of Laura's worry, the whole session had passed in a frenzy of snickering at the various design and programming faux-pas that infested the submitted websites. The witty, agreeable presenters who'd only hours ago regaled us with their combined brilliance had suddenly turned on us, their benefactors, with a smug vengeance that only creative professionals could muster. Laura's company site was eviscerated, just as the others had been, and Rich and I watched helplessly as she collapsed before us in a frenzy of shame.
Pondering Potentially Damaging Trade-Offs (Dec. 11, 2008)
The fourth and last installment of the Boston '08 chronicle, wherein I have a truly awful experience on the flight back. A stopover in Denver nearly demolished my sanity, and by the time Emily picked me up in Burbank I was a total wreck. God, I'm a terrible traveler, but guess what—I'm going to another one of these things next month in Seattle. The clock is ticking.
The jets floated like silent wraiths through the fog outside the airport window, while I sat inside, marooned in heated comfort. Yes folks, I was at Logan for quite a few languid hours yesterday morning, pondering the potentially damaging trade-off between ugly gray rain outside and disgustingly festive holiday music piped in over cable radio. A poor choice of brunch was already oozing maniacally through my guts, but I had to ignore it for the moment and lash together a Meaningful Finale for this Frigid Trip to the East. Not only that, but I felt I needed to justify the considerable expense to the Company this whole trip would incur. Was the Web Design World convention worth it? Had I learned anything? Had I grown, personally and professionally?
I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe (Apr. 17, 2009)
The sad saga of major league shortstop Khalil Greene, who played for San Diego until he was traded to St. Louis before the 2009 season, doesn't really present many instances for cheap laughs. However, my favorite Padres blog Gaslamp Ball had never shirked the sensitive territory of Khalil's taciturn brilliance—robot and Spicoli jokes abounded there during his time as a Padre—so I decided to take what I knew about him and mash it together with Blade Runner, resulting in this sodden piece of fiction. Tactless or not, it's still a favorite of mine.
What frightened me the most is how much I identified with those particular units. The ones who put up crazy numbers day in day out, but choked in high profile situations with names like All-Star Game or Division Series. My reverie was cut short however, when the unit started beeping and whirring, briefly coming to life. Everyone else watched helplessly, but I couldn't stand it anymore, and bent down to cradle Khalil's head in my hands. The replicant's faint whispers were difficult to discern amid the general uproar of the clubhouse, but I know what I heard, damn it—pure emotion. Yes, unadulterated feeling, pouring forth from the mind of an android as it lay there in my arms, a crushed and broken being at the end of its prescribed life-span, and when it spoke, we listened.
Okay, so this is the first of five new Shameless Revisionism posts for this Summer of '09—a summer which looks to be unusually busy at Ch├ęz DuBois, but nothing that won't affect next week's post, at least. I'm gonna do a comprehensive run-through of the increasingly surreal "Requiem for a Music Geek" posts (seven in all) that were all a blast to barf onto the page. Mmmm, it's only rock & roll, but I get the jittery shakes just thinking about it. Tune in next weekend to find out why.

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