Tuesday, March 31, 2009

YouTube covers

So I've been looking up covers of fairly obscure songs I know on YouTube. This kid does Roland The Thompson Gunner. It's a tune about the ghost of a mercenary.

Maybe if I go through enough of these covers I'll find some terrible savant, untrained and gorgeous for it. But most of them are run of the mill coffee house people, trying their best to sing it exactly like it is on the record. There's a diamond out there somewhere.

Anyway, there's something sweet about a kid singing about a Norwegian soldier of fortune in her bedroom. Better than listening to Jonas Bros.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Conspiracies are blooming

The Obama Deception is high art in conspiracy theory.

And this my favorite comment from the YouTube peanut gallery:

*I am a 3.5 gpa college student at santa monica. I have done research after seing this video. I have not been able to rebutle anything in this video. Furthermore i have found evidence to support these claims. I have gone over it with my political science professor who has a ph.d in political science. He states that Wall street has taken over Main street.*

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A few of you have noticed that I put this blog behind a firewall for several months. You probably wonder what secret required me to do this. Nothing nags at one's imagination like a locked door, I suppose. Or at least I like to believe that you think about it at all. Probably you don't. I'll tell you about it anyway.

It was October. In an idle moment, when I should have been either working on getting some freelance assignments or finding a regular job, I stopped by the CIA's website. You know how that goes. The Times online can only feed so many suspicions. The rest of the Internet presents a paranoia-stoking banquet. On the Web we may wander in and out of the offices of the FBI, the CIA and the NSA. Then we feel naughty and dangerous.


So I got to the CIA website. There I discovered the Terrorism Buster Logo. You remember the Terrorism Buster Logo.

I cringed for the dignity of beurocrats, intelligence officers and graphic designers and emailed it to my mostly uninterested friends.

I said, "Would you look at this? Aren't you embarrassed by this? As an American? As a taxpayer? As an aesthete?"

To a one they said, "No, no and no. So it’s a dumb logo made by a government agency, whatever man."

Fortunately, I had a blog.

I started this blog with grand ambitions a few years ago. But after months of trying, I realized that writing a compelling blog is both hard and pointless. Even the most widely read blogs are barely read at all. Rather, people react to headlines and then either idiotically curse or praise whatever half-formed notion they believe the author intended. This probably has a place and function in civil society, but it's ultimately not too interesting and it doesn't pay.

Now I was aware of this last October. But still I took the time to craft a clumsy notice about the Terrorism Buster Logo and link to the CIA website. Had I left it at that, everything probably would have been fine. But I wanted people to know that I had ferreted out this moronic logo. I wanted to bring it to light and shame the Central Intelligence Agency, or at least shame whoever designed it and stuck it on the web. So I emailed a link to the advertising website copyranter. That yielded a notice on copyranter. From there things really took off.

You know all about the "blogosphere.” It consists of a bunch of people much like myself, who crave attention but can't sing or dance or act and aren't very good looking. And they're not terribly smart or original either. So they cruise around the Internet, find things there and then write dumbshit about what they've found on their own blogs. A number of these people were alerted to the existence of my site by copyranter. They came around to morebetterlies.blogspot.com, had a peek, and then posted their own notices about the CIA terrorism buster. Some of these sites were pretty widely viewed.

So over the course of a day and a half, about 20,000 people came by to visit. My previous one-day traffic record was about 75 visitors. I thought this was pretty exciting. Especially since a few people poked around, seeing what they could see.

I was thrilled and ashamed at the same time. It must be how flashers feel. Oh, look what I did, world! I found a thing, an ugly thing, a clumsy product of someone else’s incompetence. It had gone ignored for so long, unheralded in its ineptitude. Now look. Look at it and think about how ugly it is. Instead of thinking about nice things, pretty things, kindness and light, consider the shittiness of the CIA. Get angry and write something on your blogs about it, quickly.

For the next day and a half I attempted to stay ahead of the newfound traffic. I tried to feed it. I went to the National Security Agency website and found some equally embarrassing, though better drawn graphic elements. I wrote awkward copy to go along with those bits. Already I felt like I was repeating myself. But I couldn’t stop.

At times like this strange anxieties pop up. Finally, after years of so much abject failure, mere mediocrity loomed. And in the degraded context of my life, it looked like success. I told myself: This could be it, right? I finally found my voice, my rhythm, my medium. I will be a guy who finds odd and funny things on the Internet and shares them with the world. I alone am qualified to do this, because I am special. Now that others realize this about me and my website, traffic will grow steadily. I’ll get some advertisers and the regular opportunity to write pieces for high-status publications. Then I’ll retire to an apple farm in upstate New York and periodically come down the Hudson on a jetski to deliver speeches at the Barnes and Nobles in Union Square.

Or will I screw up even this? Will I be unable to sustain the focus and attention of the few people whose lives are so empty they care about the graphic design capabilities of our nation’s intelligence agencies? I’d set the bar so low for myself. What few accomplishments I’d racked-up meant so little to anyone else. Maybe I could build something on this foundation.

I couldn’t sleep. I ate all my meals standing up, too diffuse in my own angst to organize a meal. I drank from dirty cups, didn't shave or wash my clothes. I lay in bed for hours on end with a laptop propped on my belly, scanning the Internet for something, anything, that might hold my attention for more than fifteen seconds or offer some promise of meaning. Of course it wasn't out there.

So it was in the midst of all this, subsequent to my little smart-ass CIA post that I got a late-night phone call from [Redacted].

"John," he said when I answered the call. "What are you doing right now? You watching MSNBC?"

"No, [Redacted]. I don't even have cable. Even if I did, why would I be watching MSNBC? Are you watching MSNBC?"

"Yeah. I'm watching it,” he said. “I'm surprised you're not off somewhere watching it yourself, 'cause you're on it."

"What do you mean, I'm 'on it?'"

"You're on the TV right now."

"No I'm not. I'm standing in my living room looking out the window, watching sillouttes of leaves blow by in the dark and thinking bleak thoughts. How could I be on TV?"

"I dunno Johnny, but you're on there right now. Your blog was just mentioned on The Countdown and now it's on the scrolly thing at the bottom of the screen."

"Huh. That's interesting. So am I famous now that I'm being featured on a show I can't view? I feel like a tree falling in an unpopulated forest all of a sudden. Oh, hey! Why are you watching cable news?”

"I'm in a hotel room."

"That's cool. Where?"

"Durango, Colorado."

"Durango? What are you doing there?"

"Watching Keith Olberman go on and on about how great you are on his unwatchable TV show. You know that."

"Har har. But I mean, what sent you to Durango."

"Oh, Someone hired me to drive his car here. I'm going to hang around for a day or two and then head back east."

"What kind?"

"What kind what? Back East? You know, East, where the people who don't own guns live."

"No, I meant what kind of car."

"I think it was a Mercedes, but I can hardly tell one apart from a Dodge now. Maybe it was a Saab."

"You are a monk [Redacted]."

"No. You're the monk Johnny. I bet you've spent the last three days shuffling around your apartment in your bedroom slippers sniffing your own B.O. Since you quit smoking I bet you don't even leave the apartment to grocery shop."

We continued talking for a while. I kept on staring out the window. If I pressed my cheek against the glass and looked off to my left I could see the spire of the Chrystler Building peeking over the new condos near Greenpoint, Avenue. When I first moved into this apartment I could see the whole skyline from my living room. That alone made the apartment an absurd bargain at $650 a month. Now nearly a decade had elapsed. The rent had gone up a mere two hundred bucks but a thicket of soviet-style residential skyscrapers sprouted and blocked my view of the city. I could smell the glass pressed against my face. I thought about moving to Durango. Then I thought about moving to Wyoming.

Interrupting [Redacted] I said, "Hey, let's go to Wyoming and get jobs in a natural gas field."


"What do you mean 'nah.'"

"That's hard work. I don't like hard work and neither do you."

"Yeah. You're right. I hate hard work. God." I pressed my nose against the window and smelled the glass again. How can glass have a smell? Is it sublimating into the air? Why can't you smell it from a few feet away?

"So what are you going to do Johnny?

"What do you mean [Redacted?]"

"I mean what are you going to do. You can't keep on doing whatever it is you've been doing. I been hearing things."

"What things?"


"What things? About me?"

"Why do you think I called?"

"Because you saw my blog on the Countdown and you're worried that the flood of visitors to the site will bring scrutiny to you somehow because I keep on writing about you in this oblique way?"

"I thought I told you to cut that out."

"You did. I don't listen. I'm egocentric. Remember. You learned that when you were working for me."

"God. I can't believe you were my boss."

"I know. Amazing isn't it? I couldn't lead a crackhead to a crackhouse."

"It's true. Man. Johnny. You have no leadership skills whatsoever."

"So what have you been hearing [Redacted]?"

"When was the last time you went outside?"

I thought about it for a minute. Was it two days or five? What would I have gone out for? I had peanut butter and a little bread left. Milk, coffee, some books and a poached wireless connection, what else could I possibly need? I walked through the apartment and into the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror I realized that I hadn’t left the apartment for a week and a half. Autumn had peaked and waned in the meanwhile. My skin started to feel oily. I said to [Redacted], “I went for a 2 mile run this morning before my meetings. Always on the go. You know that, [Redacted].” The limp irony of the lie fell flat in my own ears.

“What are you doing Johnny?” [Redacted] said, half laughing at me.

I sat down on the toilet, my ass cheek perched on the lip of the seat. I thought about hanging up the phone. My lower guts ached.

[Redacted]: “Johnny?”

“Yeah [Redacted].” My mouth tasted sour.

“You’re 35. Is this it?”

“I’m not 35!” I said, reflexively. Then I paused and did the math (’88, ‘89 ‘90. . .) How simultaneously egocentric and estranged from myself am I, that I don’t even know how old I am any more?

Jim sniggered on the other end of the phone line. “Man, I don’t know what you’ve done to yourself, but it sure is a humdinger.

The doorbell rang. I wasn’t expecting anyone and normally that’s enough of a reason to ignore the bell. But I wanted out of this conversation with Jim. And whoever was ringing the bell seemed insistent. He rang the bell metronomically, every five seconds. Ding ( 2. . . 3. . . 4. . . .) ding. “I gotta go Jim,” I said. “Someone is at the door.”

“Man, no one is at the door. I spoke to Jean and Abby. No one has seen you in months. They’re afraid to go to your apartment.”

“Sorry man. I gotta get the door. I’ll call back.” And I hung up.