Mar 19

That Giant Sucking Sound

Back in 1992, part-time presidential candidate and full-time lunatic Ross Perot coined the term “giant sucking sound.” He originally used it to criticize the then-proposed NAFTA treaty. Later politicians also used it to play up the “jobs lost” bogeyman. Admittedly, in that context it really doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for me around here.

EXIF_JPEG_T422

“Our jobs are secure. Now piss off.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a good phrase. It’s also one of the few notable things conceived during Perot’s presidential runs which didn’t involve pie graphs and/or batshit conspiracy theories. For me, the “giant sucking sound” is what I often hear in the back of my mind when I’m writing. It’s a thought along the lines of, “Hoo boy. I’m really posting a turd to the Internet today!” I’m having that thought right now, actually.

Yet one person’s manure is often another person’s manna. Regardless of what kind of artist you are – be it a painter, actor, musician, or a writer like myself – you fancy some of your works are much more awesome than others. However, what you think is good and what others think is good are often two different things. The same holds for one’s perception of crap.

Here’s a case in point. The late Alec Guinness thought of himself as an old-school English stage actor of the highest caliber, on par with his contemporary Laurence Olivier and with Patrick Stewart later on. Indeed, like Olivier and Stewart his Shakespearean chops were indisputably world-class. However, most of you out there know him for this role:

kenobi

“It’ll be just like Connery in Zardoz. No one will remember this.”
Image credit: williampcoleman

At best, Guinness viewed the Obi-Wan Kenobi role as a late-career afterthought and a retirement hedge. Indeed, thanks to some shrewd negotiating he made a ton of money off of it. But once it became apparent many would remember him from his Star Wars appearances more than anything else he ignored the subject as much as he possibly could, even going so far as to throw away Star Wars fan mail unopened.

Something like this happened to me, albeit on a much smaller scale. For a few years in the mid-90s I was on the staff of the Bengal, the student newspaper at Idaho State University. I started out as an op-ed writer and remained in that capacity throughout my tenure there. That’s how I saw my role there. Oh yeah, I also wrote some straight news stories, mainly for shits and giggles.

One day in 1995 I was informed I won first place in a regional college newspaper newswriting competition. This came as a complete surprise because (1) I wasn’t aware I entered a competition in the first place and, (2) the article I won for I found banal and pedestrian at best. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it had something to do with proposed fee increases, something dry and boring like that. To this day I’m somewhat bemused by the experience.

Mind you, I don’t try to write garbage on purpose. Well, not usually. However, I sometimes wonder what would happen if I gave up all attempts at humor, intellect and integrity, and wrote entirely for the lowest common denominator. I could totally pump out dreck for the Oprah-addled masses if I wanted. I imagine the result would be akin a mashup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the Twilight series.

kinkadeexorcism

Illustrated by the undead Thomas Kinkade, of course.
Image credit: ojimbo

Ultimately I’ve learned over the years to discount the giant sucking sound, at least to an extent. It’s often completely wrong anyway.

Feb 28

The Costco Slog

Yesterday I broke down and did what I should have done a couple weeks ago. I went to Costco. The Pyramid Brothers were low on food and litter. I didn’t feel like a trip to Albertson’s was enough. I needed to think BIG. Costco is the place for that.

Did you know Costco has a funeral section? Neither did I until today. If I go all I ask is a simple, tangible memorial free of any Thomas Kinkade influence. After that do what the fuck you want to with my remains.

wpid-flag33

Not Kinkade, but the same sort of kitsch and revisionist hell.

Anyway, where the hell was I? Oh yes, if you’ve ever been to Costco, you know everything is big. You also know you wind up spending a hell of a lot more than you intended. Cat food and litter obtained, but how about something called “channa masala?” The nice lady offering samples introduced me to it. Damn good actually, and it has garbanzo beans! That’s one of the great terms in the English language. I bought two boxes.

Dr. Pepper? Haven’t had that in a long time. Gatorade? Hell yes! Sadly, it was only after I left I discovered I bought the “low calorie” crap. Well, such is life.

But both the best and the worst purchase of the day was a “Chairmat,” which is one of those large plastic surfaces designed to protect carpet from rolling chairs. Given that the Command Center was obviously flipped as cheaply as possible during the worst of the housing crisis, I’ve needed one for some time.

sillysink

Pictured: the result of a half-assed flip.

It’s the best purchase because I’m genuinely concerned I’m going to tear a hole in the carpet. It’s the worst because, well, try fitting something like that in a 2004 Ford Focus. Not pretty. The best part is I had to do it only once.

Ah, but the worst was yet to come. The Command Center is located entirely on the second floor of my building. That means I had to carry all this crap up Astroturf-covered stairs with a still-sore side from my fall. I’m still feeling it. I’m thinking trying a return to the gym next week, but damn. More on that later.

The nice part is I’m well-stocked on needed liquids for the immediate future, as well as cat food and cat litter. I also have enough coffee filters to last me until the heat death of the universe. Like many other things, the best part about going to Costco is when it’s over.

CRACKED.com update: Holy crap! For the first time I made the “Pitches We’re Considering” folder today. That means I’m one step away from snark with at least six figures of hits. I’m not celebrating yet, but I feel good.