Monday, December 29, 2008

Home coming, Home going

This xmas trip to STL was one of the most romantic I've had in a long time. I don't mean that I touched a girl, I mean betwixt me and the city. Some questionably warm days and nice sit downs with friends. Not one moment spent in bullshit. There was much idle chatter but it was the real kind, and a couple of once-in-a-decade talks with all of my parents.

This year has been trying, probably the hardest of my life. I feel tested. I've had to face down crucial shit that most men go all their lives without confronting. My survival has been dependent on a number of very loving friends, friends whom I owe a long debt of gratitude. I also survived because I'm fucking tough as nails.

I'm like an eXtreme sPorts guy, but instead of basejumping, I'm into eXtreme tRagedy. I'm going to get a cat just so I can look forward to the day when it's found lifeless under the basement stairs! EYYYEAH!

Oh cheese, I forgot to tell the blog that I've been increasingly poisoned by my home for the past 2 years. The doctor says it's been slowly constricting my perception of reality that entire time, to the point of near suffocation. It'll work it's way out of my nervous system in the next 5 weeks. So, call me then when my third eye has reopened. We'll go get a slice of pie, and have our own chat.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Dehnadi and Bornat's thesis is that the single biggest predictor of likely aptitude for programming is a deep comfort with meaninglessness:
To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to some meaningless conclusion. In the test the consistent group showed a pre-acceptance of this fact: they are capable of seeing mathematical calculation problems in terms of rules, and can follow those rules wheresoever they may lead. The inconsistent group, on the other hand, looks for meaning where it is not. The blank group knows that it is looking at meaninglessness, and refuses to deal with it.
Dehnadi and Bornat's programming aptitude research

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I like it: Il Conformiste

The past few mondays, before the radio show, I'll make myself a fancy dinner and watch something sophisticated. This week Jesse and I watched Il Conformiste, a movie about a secret-policeman within Mussolini's crumbling government. He has no stomach for his job, his friends, his wife. It's funny and grim. It may be the most carefully composed film I've ever seen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grown Grump: my Papa

It's weird being an adult and having to spend thanksgiving yelling at your father. I thought that was a trick I got done with 10 years ago. No I wasn't yelling at Cancer Dad (who's doing fine, thx). It's my boyhood dad who caught it last Thursday, during an otherwise spectacular trip home. 

My father's got troubles. Every 3 years, right around the holidays, he loses his shit. It's right on schedule. 

Most times he makes sure that every bridge gets burned. Usually it's of the I'll Buy-a-Jeep with KC-Lights, Start-Selling-Drugs, and Fight-3-Cops in a Golf-Course-Parking-Lot variety. This time it's spookier, but not as threatening, I hope.

The frustration and fear of dealing with these episodes is part of the reason I left STL. My dad is now 60. There's this irking pang that I can't write this certified nutjob off forever. So I get turned up between my sweet-n-tender side that wants to somehow help the poor jerk, and the righteous side that knows everyone you love deserves to fuck up all on their own. 

It's hard to stop people with bombs strapped to their chests. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Masculine Manlog pt. 1

I'm getting a lot of crushes.

Last night I watched the french film The King of Hearts. I fell in love with Coquelicot, played by the actress Genevieve Bujold. Having a crush is easier when the girl is whimsical fiction, not living just on the other side of town.

This weekend's other crush: the Baader Brains' LP

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes I am 29

Justin got me La Piovra's "Disastro Sonoro" 7 inch. I smashed his gokart into a wall.

My dad, with half his throat missing and breathing through a tracheotemy, tells me:
"You've been taking life too seriously for too long."

So, read that again, but imagine a robot talking with a mouthful of mud.

I love my family, not to slight any STL crew who read this(IMISSU), but they're the thing I miss the most about the fatherland. I was afraid I'd have to move back about a month ago, but that was just THE PANIC easing in. My dad is deep in the throws of chemo treatment now, my mom asked if I could get her a connection if the Marinol doesn't do the trick. That lady's gonna learn to simmer weed butter. What a country.

The job has been capital shitter this week. Every computer I touch turns to dust.

I'm sure the internet is wondering: the ladies? Sure, I'm known to charm. Bah, I am pleased being single, and they talk to me, and we make acquaintance, but for now I mostly keep my distance. There's fish to fry before I get all tangled up again.

Beasley's here now, shirtless and hairy on my couch each morning. He's taken to this town beautifully, most nights of the week I hardly see him. He's already got a job busting heads down at The Record Bar, and he may have landed a job as a tax man at the IRS. We ran around on election night and he's befriending every friendful face. I took him to The Ship last night, this vrrry nice speakeasy in the west bottoms, a fine imbibing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ben is Turning on the People: Pt 1

But don't get me wrong, it is a new and palpable joy in my life,  this radio show. It takes a lot of too-detailed planning, atleast one and 2/3rd extra nights of my week. Nevermind all the wasted professional hours when I should be Normalizing Cubes or deciphering a sales manager's hamfisted email. Fuck that, I'm spending 10-11:30 scraping the internet for Negazione.

The show allows me to dweeb excessively with Justin and also forces me to engage alternately weird and isolating segments of punk music. A lot of the "hey we gotta play this new" songs make me nodshrug, but on occasion I'll find some really inspiring gold.

The trips back to STL don't help my time crunch, for example this weekend I'm going to Chicago for birthday partying.  These are the weeks where we pick an easy topic and phone it in. I've started marking the passage of time in weeks now. It's always how many days until monday.

I'm half way through a new project with a few people I've never worked with before, and one person who's never been in any band before, but has all the right ideas. I am tickled. Atop this I've been squinting at playing in 2 cover bands for this years PUNK ROCK HALLOWEEN, which has thankfully been postponed to the end of November.

And I have new recording commitments, which I really love but without clear definition up front, can be a black hole from which light and time find no escape.

This all comes down to a bit of talk I had with the sage Brooke Hunt this weekend, I was yakking about all of this and she punctuated our conversation with "You're really a project person aren't you?"

"Yeah, and it makes me a zombie."

Nothing left to chance. I feel very strange having 3 hours alone, unplanned. Even if I'm sitting around listening to records, that's LISTENING TIME (7-9). Or just down at the studio fucking around, that's STUDIO TIME (8-10:30). This manner of thinking leaves no reserves for when the very real and frightening happens.

Curiously, the only time that hyper-schedule isn't in play, is when I'm with friends. Then, it's always fuck it. That timetable-o-death only happens when I'm alone.

This is why people eat peyote or become Promise Keepers, to shock the system from a long failed pattern. It's not that I'm doing things I don't love, it's that I'm completely impatient with myself. It's hard to catch that slip, when I get overextended and itchy. Some motherfuckers go their whole life like this, tiny intrepid geniuses who do great things and become isolated from thems they's doing for.

Nope. No thanks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I can't get no I can't get no

Every monday night, I'm down at radio station to do the show at 1 AM. I then am tasked to play syndicated liberal crap from 2-5. Usually it's more like 2-6, as the elderly guy who replaces me, Groovy Grant, never shows up at 5 AM. Last week he didn't show up at all. I was there until 8:30. I'm supposed to be at work at 8 AM.

So the mission has been to be at home asleep on Mondays at 8 PM, set my alarm for midnight. This has proven impossible to force.

I've tried sitting in bed and reading, nope, I just keep reading.

I've tried an enormous burrito while slamming 3 beers in a half hour.

I've tried psyching myself into sleepyness, which means I try to slow my ambitions at about 4pm. I just get depressed that I can't see friends or be down at the studio. And then my downhill bummer roll starts and now I'm just awake, lonely, and racked with outdated guilt.

After the show I try to sleep on the floor, under the mixer, which the FCC considers "illegal". I snag maybe 2 half hour winks.

These tuesdays, I'm zonked but great, because I made it through another cloistering monday night.

I can't do this much longer. The plan is to make it through the fundraiser (2 weeks away), after which I'll make my appeal for a better slot. Failing that, I'll threaten to quit because my job can't take me showing up late and half awake. There's no way I'd actually quit, I love it too much, and too many nice strangers love it too. But once a week I turn psychotic.

If you can read this, gimmie some advice.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wherein I Shit on 20th Century Radioimaging

We got the news on my dad's PET scan late last night. The man is clean as a whistle, it has not metastisized outside of his neck. This is the happiest I've ever been about a loved one ONLY having his tongue, larynx, and upper lymphatic system ravaged by cancer.

I was reading up on how PET/CT scans work, and they are fucking rad! First they fill you up on radioactive sugar (the radioactive sugar has a half life of about 2 hours so timing is of the essence!) Then they slide you in this big whirring supercooled magnet for 40 minutes and scan your body a millimeter at a time, taking little slice photos. Each slice takes 2 different kinds of shots, one for measuring metabolic activity at a cellular level, and one for measuring density and size by POLARIZING EVERY ATOM in your body. Then they stitch every slice together, like lining up slices of bread, and have a perfectly detailed model of your body and everything inside.

How the fuck did they find cancer before this shit? Apparently they just guessed at whether or not some organ was swollen a little too weird and then cut you open to see.

But still, my dad's going into the hospital next Thursday for atleast the next 2 weeks. They're doing 2 surgeries, in the first one they have to cut through his jaw bone to open his neck and dig out the goop. After he gets home he'll be recovering for a month, then he starts radiation and chemo, and a prescription for Marinol!

I'm going to surprise him. This weekend is the last he'll be able to eat solid foods for the rest of his life, so I'm driving to St. Louis to eat $50 steaks. It'll probably be the last that he'll have a human voice, I'm going to record him telling the story of how he met my mom and when they fell in love.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Not My Imagination

I wrote this for Scott, but it's true, and possibly my favorite anecdote:

Age 18, I was riding with 2 other friends crammed up on the front couch seat in my first car: a 75 chevy malibu, dark grey. We are driving in the nether regions of Fenton MO, between downtown where the walmart and chop-suey joint is, and the other side with the QT and White Castle.

A cop pulls in behind us. They ride there for about 5 minutes while I'm reassuring everyone that it's fine, we've definitely not done anything to warrant a hassle.

The squad car hits the lights AND siren, along with the spotlight trained on the back of our heads. I pull over slowly and put the car in park.

The doors of the squad car open and over their built in PA a voice says: "BEN SMITH! STEP OUT OF THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS OUT!"

Every muscle in my face locks. I glance at my friends, they look like they've just seen a dog shot.

I reach over with both my hands and unlatch the driver's side door, push it open and step out, both hands in front of me. I make the quarter turn and see the driver's side cop standing behind his door with his gun squarely on me. I see his partner outside his car on the curb in the blind spot of my car with her gun pointed at the 2 people on my front seat.

I do it.
I start to step backward.

When I was 18 I almost always wore this blue jacket with cone spikes all over the shoulders and a giant CRASS circle logo on the back. At this moment, aside from imagining my torso getting yanked forward with bullets, I wondered how fucking sweet this must look, and what a great record cover a photo of this would make.

I reach the back of my car.
I do it.
Someone yanks both my arms back and cranks handcuffs around my wrists very tightly. Then grabs my left arm and spins me around. I can make out the rim of a stocky balding guy, the kind of balding guy who shaves his head to hide his hairline.

"Ben Smith?"
"Yes sir."
"How long have you been on this side of the river Ben?"
"Um, I don't know what you mean, the Meramec?"
"Alright smartfuckingass, how long have you been in St. Louis?"
"Since I was 1 sir, a baby"
He frowns and speaks quietly: "Watch yourfuckingmouth. You were in Illinois and now you're here and I'm going to take you in you damned child fucker."

"We are going to run your sick ass in to lock up, you're going to stay there as long as we like, and then turn you back over to the state of Illinois."
"Sir I don't think I'm who you think."
"You're Ben Smith. Grey Malibu. Brown hair and glasses. 6+ foot"

"Yes. I've never lived in Illinois. If you get out my wallet you can run my license. Please run my license sir."
He looks at me skeptically: "Do you have any knives, guns, or needles on you, anything that could stick me at all?"
I tell him no, he reaches behind me and pulls out my wallet. The officer hands it to his smaller partner and proceeds to pat me down, empty the rest of my pockets.

They walk me back to the rear of their car and open the back door. As they turn me to put me in I can see my friends in the car, each of them alternately giving the "aw shit!" head-bob, over and over.

I sit in the car, I overhear them running my ID. I am Benjamin A Smith, born Hopewell VA, November 1st. The driver looks at this partner, steps around the car and opens my door. He reaches for my shoulder. "Sorry about this one", giving me a tug out, "You match the description of another Ben Smith, driving a car like yours" saying this all to the handcuffs while he unclasps them. "He's a child molester. If you get pulled over any more you might want to tell the officers that you're not him."

I sincerely nod as if he's given me the sagest wisdom I've ever heard. He hands me my wallet and keys and tells me to have a safe night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Father's gotta take sick and die some of these days

Fig 1. Like a damned Brain Handle shirt

I've been keepin my hat on this one for the past couple weeks but I just got the news: my dad has been diagnosed with stage 4 esophogeal cancer, which means deathgoop is in his lymph nodes. They gotta cut out a large chunk of his throat, start radiation. Next week they'll do the pump test to see if it's spread to other parts of his body, especially his lymphatic system. Then they'll see if he'll be chemo'd too. If he makes it through the next 6 months, he'll probably make it another 5 years, and then?

My mom and Tom got married a little more than 2 years ago (they've been together since I was 12, he's been a bigger dad). The man is a goddamn rock but for the first time in my life I can tell he's scared. Everyone is numb, terrified, but patient. I'll be back in St. Louis a bit more.

I'm actually kind of happy this is coming down at the end of my Summer-o-Hate. Got to figuring out how tough I are, and now I get to test it. Guarantees by the end of the year I'll be made of concrete and east-german razorwire, with a delicious warm gooey center.

I go to work and I keep thinking about world war 3.

Muddy Waters: You Gotta Take Sick and Die Some of These Days (MP3)

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm really looking forward to...

This weekend. Next week. 'N so on. First time in a long time.

I try talking to girls and I keep thinking of world war 3.

Monday, August 25, 2008

BSA Oath

After seeing my brothers this weekend, I've gained perspective, and am compelled to review my progress on the Oath.

Being Patient: I've been forcing myself to sleep at least 7 hours if not longer. It's a huge psychic victory. My veins no longer pump sand, I can be done with my job and want to work at the studio for more than a couple hours. It's an immense relief.

Being Trustworthy: This one was easy once I realized I don't have to please any one of you assholes anymore.

Being Loyal: My family and those I love have undergone cataclysmic scares recently, actual life and death things. Things that put my grousing square. I'm loved by those people. I've been there for them.

Being Helpful: Nah, you gotta can that noise at least 'til the winter.

Being Virtuous: My music theory kick is in full swing. I've already dedicated the fall to the radio and musiciansmanship, two things I can handle. I'm working at the studio constantly, I'm writing new things with new people, I'm excited.

Being Mindful: I'm no longer conned that things will end in a pile of dippin dots and rainbows. Conversely, I've promised myself that this next season will not end in a pile of skulls and sus4 chords.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ecclesiastes 3

I realized today that the end of summer is soon approaching, which means there's not much time left to salvage it. I think this one may get marked down as Total Bummer Summer, or Summer-o-Hate Two Thousand Eight. That stinks because I forsee a fantastic rest of the year, but the rhymes don't come as easy for "Fall" or "Autumn". I learnt from Scott a technique for writers block that he learned at clown college, which is to make lists of 10:

Potential Names for an Awesome Q3 2008
1) Don't Make Me LOL Fall
2) Scrapin' Bottom Autumn
3) A-man-had-children-And-He-taught-em-Up-n-at-em-In-the-Autumn
4) When Life Turns Brown
5) The Cops G'autumn
This isn't worth another 5.

6) Best Believe I'm Rubbin B'autumn

Friday, May 9, 2008

2) Dilligence

Fine, so I haven't been consistently writing. Like all things, I get to it. Mostly, I've been out of town, and amply unemployed.

I was in Spain for a week with my special lady friend. Spain's meticulously managed train/bus system aught be the envy of our blighted society. We were able to cheaply (cheap is relative as long as these $s remain the laughing stock of the boys down at the currency markets), I say, cheaply travel overnight and over-road from the euro-trash-mall-Barcelona to the osage-beach-of-spain-Tarifa. It was there that we hopped a 30 minute ferry ride to Tangiers, Morocco, Africa. 40 minutes after landing, an old man shouted at me from his curb-side shop:

Figure 1: Midwest boy in foreign place

"Ey! You titty boy? You Titty boy?", gesturing in my direction.

I shake my head and smile, too self conscious of how American I look (fig. 1).

"Ohhhh, PUNK eh" He gestures at me to his friend across they street, they share a warm laugh.

Where ever there's a fag joke to be made, there I am.

Morocco is the first muslim country I've ever visited. It's still very European, I mean, you can see Europe across the strait, but there are a lot of good cues to reassure you that this culture is not yours, and you're the tourist. The call to evening prayers are beautiful. Teenage boys and girls run the streets together. 20-something couples hold hands and giggle. Women wear head scarves when they feel like it. I told my step-father this and he refuses to believe it.

Figure 2: This guy

The next day we hopped a 5 hour bus to Seville to visit John "Jerk" Navarre, who seems to be holding up beautifully but is ripe for his return (fig. 2). He says "Spain is full of babes and farts." I've parroted that to every "so how was Spain?". The man is a gracious host and one of the best conversationalists I've ever met. He was able to answer my questions about the Basque and Seville and keep me from a sound trouncing by a cabbie.

But when it came time, the Spaniards wouldn't let me leave. My passport stitching came apart and all I had to show for citizenship was a ratty sleeve and wad of dogeared pages. But the pressure of my mopey face and my lady's frustration thawed their bureaucratic hearts, so now I'm back. And if you should care: