In order to ensure that I do not miss important engagements, I set all the clocks in my house forward by 10 minutes.
To safeguard against my becoming inured to this timekeeping method and mentally recalibrating to the actual time after a while, I set all the clocks in my house forward an additional 10 minutes each day. So on Monday, 9:00 is 9:10, on Tuesday, 9:20, on Wednesday, 9:30, and so forth.
The flaw in this system is that after a few weeks, I become wary of the information that I am receiving from my various timepieces and begin to rely instead on my internal clock, which cannot be so easily fooled. My solution to this problem comes in the form of a custom-made calendar, which has the days offset on an incremental scale that is analogous to my clock system, so that Monday, January 1, is Tuesday, January 2, while Tuesday, January 2, becomes Thursday, January 4, and Wednesday, January 3, becomes Saturday, January 6 (See Fig. 1).
I find that the calendar system, combined with a more-or-less random regulation of the lighting in my apartment to disrupt the (for my purposes) dangerously predictable succession of day and night, is sufficient to keep my internal clock off balance and allow my external clocks to do their jobs properly.
Lest all this hard work be spoiled by a public occurrence such as a newscast or a sporting event, I have reprogrammed my DVR to record the nightly news, the weather channel, and the NFL, and to play random 5-minute selections from a pool of 3 months’ worth of these recordings on a continuous loop in my living room.
The Holiday problem has not escaped me. To combat this particular difficulty I have bribed various acquaintances to call me with seasons’ greetings at intervals based on contemporary events that I have incomplete access to due to my aforementioned DVR-news-gathering system. So, for instance, if the San Francisco 49ers clinch a playoff berth, someone will call up to wish me a Happy Birthday, and if the President makes a public address to the nation, I will receive Christmas cards in the mail the next week. I do not take any calls or letters from close friends or family.
Although this might occasionally give me sufficient information to guess certain calendar dates with a reasonable degree of accuracy – e.g., if the Niners win their division on the same day as the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – I have found that the erratic sleep schedule which is occasioned by the random lighting in my apartment and the constant barrage of conflicting sports-, weather-, and current-events-related information coming from my television leaves my brain generally too addled to perform the intricate calculations necessary to make sense of these coincidences.
As a final precaution, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (which occur consecutively most weeks), I dose my morning coffee with a strong hallucinogenic substance (usually mescaline or dipropyltryptamine), which practice has proven of inestimable value in distorting my sense of temporality in general. Consequently, I do not, at present, believe that time passes at all – a worldview which has helped me come to terms with some genuinely surprising phenomena such as the fact that I have not had a birthday since 2002.
Obviously, this entire system obliges me to drastically limit any contact with other human beings (“Spoilers,” as I call them), but apart from the occasional interruption, I have not found this requirement to be much of an imposition.
This is an idea for an epic romance that will actually make money. Every day, after she gets back from the salt mines, Elizabeth writes in her diary – not about the grueling, soul-shattering drudgery of hewing precious saline crystals from the living rock, but about the world that only exists in her mind. About the idea that sustains her through the desert landscape of her existence, where no plant grows save the thorny cactus, and the thought of rainfall brings nothing but the bitter knowledge that life, real life, is a mirage – and the dull toil of living is merely a perfect negative of our steady, downhill crawl towards an inevitable grave.
The idea is of a boy – youthful, earnest, and full of a hopefulness that her soul yearns for with the same urgency that her body aches to hold him in her arms. To forget, for a moment and forever, that there is anything in the world beyond the softness of his skin and the gentle warmth of his breath against her neck. Her visions of him take many forms, but when he comes to her, he comes always as a supplicant, carrying in one hand a perfect white rose, and in the other, a cold, frosty Miller LiteTM, full of delicate hops and a smooth, satisfying taste that will never let you down.
There could be other sponsors too. For instance, I have this idea for a part of the novel where it turns out that her visions are not the tragic delusions of a broken woman in a featureless world, but real memories of a vibrant past, dressed up as hallucinations so as to dull the pain of loss – and, like, the illusion is shattered one day, when she’s walking home from the salt mines, and she stops short because he’s just standing there, waiting for her, a beautiful dream from her childhood come to life – come to rescue her from her solitude and her despair and her empty, barren future in a brand new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with heated seats and a V8 Hemi multi-displacement engine.
The boy, of course, had been lost in a storm many years earlier, and Elizabeth’s grief had driven her to accept a job in the brutal salt refineries of her hometown where the harshness and the tedium of her work might eventually come to serve as a proxy for the agony of her lost love. But instead of being killed in the storm, the boy was miraculously rescued by a kindly old man who gave him the education and the training he needed to become CEO of Morton Industrial Salt, which, in addition to being a kind and benevolent employer, offers the most complete line of salt grades and salt-related products in the industry.
After that, there’ll be a few chapters about how the power of their love for each other (plus a bolt-action Smith & Wesson Winchester rifle) finally frees her from the clutches of her cruel employers and her doomed town, and by the end of the story, she’s blissfully working as Director of Product Development for Morton Salt Inc. In the final scene, they’ll be lying together in the fully-reclinable passenger seat of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, lost in the warmth of each other’s touch and the reassuring hardness of their custom Smith & Wesson rifles, as the memories of their years apart fade into the quiet absurdity of a bad dream that will never return.
The problem with dating, right? Is that it all starts out like this really exciting thing where you suddenly know someone who’s at least not openly repulsed by the idea of touching you and, like, maybe just maybe you’ve found a real human person who will be there to stroke your hair and, I don’t know, coo at you while you’re drunkenly sobbing yourself to sleep at night. So much so, actually, that you’re willing to overlook the fact that this chick has a psychotic fixation with, e.g., trying to talk to you while you’re on the fucking phone with someone else.
But like before long, it turns out that having someone ask you who you’re talking to every single time you pick up the telephone is actually the single most annoying thing in the entire world; and on the flipside, she’s actually not all that into the fact that you’re this oddly defective human being who bursts into tears for no apparent reason, and she starts telling you to, like, why not just cheer up? Which somehow just makes it all so much fucking worse.
But so this dating site takes care of that problem from the beginning of the process. Through a comprehensive 42-question survey, we’ll identify every insecurity, nervous tic, bad habit, fear, psychosis, or piece of questionable taste that you have, and assemble this accurate-as-shit composite of what you’re really like, so we can pair you up with someone who’s fucked up in similar ways.
So for instance, if you have this deep-seated anxiety about physical intimacy, we’ll find a partner for you whose germophobia is so intense that s/he would never be able to touch you anyway without the aid of a powerful sedative and a pair of heavy-duty burlap gardening gloves. Or, right? If you’re one of those people who just can’t keep the difference between “your” and “you’re” straight in your head, we’ll find you a life-mate whose degenerative brain disorder is so severe that they’ll never be able to fully comprehend just what a monumental fucktard they’ve been paired up with.
Also too, it’s a network, right? So you can have friends write testimonials for you that will help fill in information that you may have been too modest to include. Like,
“If you can deal with the fact that Jack will always be more emotionally committed to his music collection than he is to you, then go for it.”
“Diane will often have a dream that you did something fucked up and then actually hold it against you.”
“Stephanie genuinely enjoys reality television.”
And then the real bonus of this site is that when your partner leaves you because you’re “not the person they thought you were,” you can be like, “Well maybe you should have read my fucking profile.”
Here’s an idea for a Monster Movie. Everyone’s trapped in an amusement park – no, a brothel. OK, no, everyone’s trapped in an underfunded semi-annual conference for Social Media and Emerging Technologies. It’s called “Harnessing the Social Web.” And it’s in Detroit. No, that’s absurd – it’s in an old space station orbiting a distant, sunless planet. OK, no, so it’s in Jersey City. And the characters – what the characters don’t know (there are five of them – old friends from high school, and they all look like they’re out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, plus this talking snow-leopard attorney named Augustus, who provides comic relief.) So what the characters don’t know is that the conference, which is called “E-Commerce: From Networks to Net Gains,” is actually a front set up by this shadowy group of vampires or, like, zombies, or social conservatives or something, who want to trap them and eat their brains. Or, like, no, it’s a cult, right? It’s this cult of Satan-worshipping tech bloggers, who are fanatically obsessed with finding “the next Google” so they can use it to somehow summon a demon.
And the lawyer, right? The talking attorney who’s their faithful companion. He’s the only one who knows that something’s fucked up about the conference, which is called “Is Facebook the New Google? How to Keep Up in a Web 2.1 World” – but he can’t say anything about it because he has this pathological fear of expressing any sort of opinion, so the only thing he can do to warn them is, like, grunt and, like jump around in this agitated kind of way.
But yeah, so the climax of this movie comes when they’re all at this panel discussion about, like, Social Media Marketing and the Occult, and they’re all Twittering at each other that it’s a trap, and the lawyer is freaking out and grunting and generally disrupting the panel discussion, which is actually getting pretty fucking interesting, and these mystical forces start converging and, like, it’s fairly clear that this scary-ass demon is going to materialize right in the middle of the PowerPoint display, and all the electricity suddenly goes out, and the group has to work together to find a way to somehow stop the demon without using the Internet.
And then I haven’t figured out how the ending works yet, but it turns out that the real monster is their own greed.