November 1, 2009


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.

illustration of calendar
Click for larger

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.

October 24, 2009

The Collected E-Mail Correspondence of Jack A. Shepherd

The Collected E-Mail Correspondence of Jack A. Shepherd 2006-2008If Jack Shepherd’s legacy is to be defined primarily by his work in the field of cat videos, it must at least be bolstered by his prodigious output in a wildly different (and too often overlooked) medium: The e-mail.

The Collected E-Mail Correspondence of Jack A. Shepherd: 2006-2008 (Faber & Faber, 2009) ends with a short note – deeply characteristic of Shepherd’s laconic, no-nonsense style – that sheds as much light on the fundamental questions that informed his illustrious literary career as any of the dozens of critical tomes that have been dedicated to the subject in the past decade:

Dudebro. Check out this fucking cat. It is riding on a vacuum cleaner.

Students of Shepherd’s work will immediately recognize the juxtaposition of cats and cleaning apparatuses as a central obsession of his literary endeavors, and they will doubtless appreciate this enlightening collection for the many e-mails like this one which help to elucidate Shepherd’s often enigmatic contributions to the world of letters. But the real value of The Collected E-Mails is the surprisingly complete picture it paints of the innermost workings – both the frustrations and the aspirations – of a once-in-a-generation literary mind. Take this passage from an August 2008 e-mail exchange between Shepherd and one of his New York acquaintances:

What’s striking about this e-mail (apart from that characteristic colon-parenthesis coda by the self-styled “Master of the Emoticon”) is the almost joyful flippancy that he brings to the undeniably serious subject of intimacy with friends and the relations between the sexes.

This playfulness is not a characteristic that fans of such works as “Pixel Princesses: The Ten Hottest Videogame Babes” will recognize, but it is a helpful clue in unraveling the more difficult outpourings of the often inscrutable Shepherd and a timely reminder that behind even the grittiest of his writings is a sense of humor – of joy – that can illuminate many of the darker passages that have obsessed the literary world since he burst onto the scene with “Cats and Cleavage: Two Things I Like.”

As useful as The Collected E-Mails may be to a critic of Shepherd’s work, it is also a surprisingly tender document of a life lived to its fullest, with all the attendant heartbreaks and triumphs. As Shepherd himself blithely puts it in an e-mail to a colleague found near the end of the collection:

yo yo yo broseph stalin – thanks for the invite dude but i prolly cant make it tonight. partying way to fucking hard this week already if you know what i mean. ;-}

These are the words of a man who knew himself all too well, and – along with the rest of this captivating volume – they are words that help us to get to know him just a little bit better, as we come to grips with his life and works. If The Collected E-Mails is anything to go by, the release next year of Jack A. Shepherd’s Complete IMs, Texts, and G-Chats may well be the literary event of the decade.

August 4, 2009

A Happy Thought

The following just occurred to me:

If (1) there is such a thing as eternal torment; it is (2) likely that it will be constructed in such a way as to ensure the maximum possible torment for each individual.

(3) It is far more painful to endure suffering when one is certain that it (a) could have easily been avoided (e.g., by not sinning quite so much) and (b) was directly one’s own fault.


If (3) and (2) are true, then it is also true that (4) whoever is in charge of the whole post-mortal tormenting biz would instill each tormented soul with a certainty that the whole thing was his own fault regardless of whether it was in fact his fault or not.

Therefore, if it falls to us to be eternally tormented, we may take solace in the fact that our certainty that we could have avoided this torment (by e.g., being slightly better people) may in fact be a false certainty. And the presence of even this admittedly minor comfort would be enough to ensure that we could not at any point be experiencing the absolute maximum possible torment. So, no matter what happens: it could be worse.

I had kind of a shitty day today, but this really cheered me the fuck up.

July 24, 2009

I believe I can fly.

I genuinely believe, with the full force of conviction, that I can float in the air and propel myself through the sky by waving my arms around.

I also believe that (for me and me alone) the aether is a tangible thing. That I can actually reach out and grab onto the air as one would a door handle, or a baseball bat.

Worse yet (and this is where my unique condition devolves from erroneous fantasy into pathological obsession), I am utterly incapable of thinking about anything else. I think about this every single night of my life. The days are no different. I am forever cogitating on this one idea – turning it over in my mind, analyzing every aspect of it, gnawing away at it until I can no longer separate the concept from the dim reality of my existence. It consumes me.

Not only do I have feathered flaps of skin attaching my arms to the rest of my body, but the mere act of raising my arms and exposing these flaps to the elements will allow me to suddenly and surprisingly glide through the air. To escape, from you, from my troubles. From this place.

Further, it is my unshakable conviction that I am able to rise majestically into the air in an easy, fluid manner that gives no appearance of strain or effort. When I envision this in my mind, it seems to me not (as I have described) like flying, but more like propelling myself through some kind of a wide, inviting doorway. On my legs.

Which, now that I think about it, really seems a lot more likely.

Nonetheless, I believe I can fly.

I believe I can fly.

I believe I can fly.

May 24, 2009

Terminator Salvation: A Review

I watched this film. In it, a man named Christian Bale and a group of his friends try to come to terms with their disappointment about the apocalypse by breaking a number of very expensive machines. The villains of the piece are a gang of humorless robots who are inexplicably angry with Christian Bale and his friends because of something that a man named Edward Furlong did in a previous, more interesting film, which they watched but did not particularly enjoy.

There are two parts of this film that I liked very much: In the first, an extremely large robot shoots motorcycles out of its knees, which I can relate to because it is something that I have always wanted to do. My other favorite part of the movie is a dramatic scene in which Christian Bale spends ten minutes shouting at a cinematographer who is acting unprofessionally.

All in all, I would have to say that I did not like this film as much as I thought I was going to. This is primarily due to the direction, by a Scottish gentleman named McG, who, due to a traumatic childhood incident where a killer robot belittled him for writing a competent segue, is convinced that coherent narratives are for sissies and elitists.

In conclusion, I would recommend that you not watch this film because it will make you very depressed about the future, which has no jokes or girls in it.

"All significant truths are private truths."
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Once the executive branch of a thriving government, I am now a lonely wanderer, floating rudderless on a sea of discontent. Or a swamp. A swamp of malaise. A slough of despair, bitches. Rudderless.