watching the detectives

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I used to watch a lot of tv, as a bored, frequently lonely/alone kid. I have seen most of the episodes of M*A*S*H*, for instance, without meaning to, because channel 43 showed an hour of M*A*S*H* reruns twice a day, at times when I wasn’t structurally required to be doing something else (school, sleep, eating with family), and also times when no one else was watching TV (early or late local news, primetime shows). I want to stress that the amount of time that qualified as “not structurally required to be doing something else” was basically ALL the time. like if I was awake 16 hours a day, and I usually was, I was at school for eight hours, transitioning to/from school for another hour, and then pretty much watching TV a lot of the rest of the time.

this included: Watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Watching regional pro wrestling on ESPN after school. Watching the same taped episode of SportsCenter over and over. Watching infomercials. Watching pan-and-scanned, cleaned-up versions of not-that-great movies on TBS. Watching USA Up All Night hoping despite myself that this would be the time they showed boobs (the 1990s were a distant and backwards land, as far as how hard it was to see boobs)

there was a reason for this: I had nothing else to do, not that anyone was stopping me from discovering other things to do. Sometimes I would dick around in less passive ways, or read, or play Nintendo. But yeah I didn’t do a whole lot. I like TV because it would take me out of a self that very often wasn’t super happy. So I could prop myself up on TV and just let stories and images and worlds pour in, which was good, because suburban Cleveland was not the richest place in terms of stimulation. But the propping up wasn’t just a rest — it was a compulsion, an addiction, operating under the cover of an innocuous defaulting-to (other addictions operate this way too).

quick aside/image: I used to watch infomercials so much. I would have told you it was ironic somehow, back in the day. Now I see it for what it was. In novels, specifically Wise Blood, I’ve read about soapbox preachers and traveling salesmen, standing in small cities, perched on the bumper of a car, hollering about Jesus or a potato peeler, with a few bored yokels. (Think of Enoch Emery). Those people didn’t watch because the Jesus patter or the potato peeler were hynotizing; they watched because they had nothing else to look at. Anyway that’s how I sometimes see the TV-drowned chapters of my young life: my chubby face reflecting the blue TV light like the walls of a swimming pool, watching the hucksters because they were there.

as i grew up and away from both suburbs and those preliminary versions of myself, I stopped watching so much TV. this was in part because I didn’t have a TV all to myself with cable, in a house where I didn’t have to pay rent. but it was also in part because I didn’t need TV in the same ways anymore, and because, the stuff on TV wasn’t as good as the sensory inputs available in meatspace (other people, specifically girls, college) and improvements on the TV value proposition (movies not shown on TBS, books). at no point do we ever stop propping our cracked or wobbly selves up against stories, other voices, in other to give them a rest, to prevent them from collapsing under the stress of being alone in your own skull.

anyway i grew up/out/away and before too much road was behind me, i looked back at the amount of TV that I watched with a little shiver of regret, like whoops, that was a pretty large chunk of my finite lifespan I farted away there. for a while, if you talked to me after a few beers, i would tell you that TV sucks, people who watch too much TV suck (the same way that ex-smokers are the biggest grinches about smoking), TV, yadda yadda. I wasn’t quite one of those weenies who brags about not having a TV, but I was a fellow traveler for sure. I definitely saw people who flicked through channels idly, watching whatever because it was easier than doing anything else, as zombified. And to be honest, I still make little bitchy judgments about people who watch indiscriminate amounts of TV. (Content zombification is a real thing; TV doens’t have a monopoly on it — say hello, narrowminded readers of literary fiction).

But with age I learned the mature pleasures of TV. you can relax after a day of slowly losing to fate by watching a TV program. you can share the joy of narrative or comedy by watching a TV program with friends and loved ones. you can fill a rainy day with a few binged episodes of a quality hourlong drama. TV is a medium it is OK to prop your battered self up against for a while, just not always. TV is fine, TV is not the enemy of anything, TV is just stories coming from a glowing box. You have to be mindful about what you let into your eyes and ears with TV, but this is also true of all other things.

The internet used to not be like TV, which is to say, I formely did not use the Internet the way that my adolescent self used TV — as a hiding place for someone who didn’t even understand what they were hiding from, or that they were hiding at all. I have been in the very slow motion process of understanding that I idly flick through the internet, keeping my e-mail and chat and twitter open in tabs pretty much whenever I’m working, in the hope that someone will ping me, some dopamine firecracker will light itself. I am on the internet to get relevant messages that are important to my ongoing human existence. The internet is more of a public place, owing to its interactivity, than TV ever could hope to be. But I also am leaning on the internet to prop up my self-understanding. But also I don’t want to go all the way in the other direction, like I did with TV, and become a roving ranter about how the Internet sucks (some aspects of networked human existence *do* suck, though).

The moral instruction here is bonecrunchingly insipid: moderation in all things, etc. I never said I was a prophet of mental hygiene. This is just how I feel about the Internet right now. I wonder if I haven’t gotten into the same dependency — using an always-on, always-there cultural thing to fill silences instead of living life.

side note: M*A*S*H* is pretty good

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behind the gourd

jff

wrote a piece for Scene on the celebrity of Jonathan Football Esq.

While ESPN is the bell cow of national sports media in obsessing over Manziel, Cleveland’s press corps has energetically contributed to the turd-hurricane of hype in their own doofy way. But, of course, in Northeast Ohio, the Browns garner intemperate amounts of attention year-round regardless of their prospects. Remember when we talked ourselves into Brady Quinn?

Not the straightforward bites of an honest man

joachim

More sentences/near-sentences from the sentence ritual, as previously highlighted

  • My plan was to be a sinner, not for the sin itself but to smoke God out, to show me where he was shooting from, providing he or she or it or them was actually here and not on another plane or just a story.
  • I don’t think I have any edges, and I can’t tell if I am supposed to have any.
  • Whenever someone makes me uncomfortable, I try to economically exclude them from my life​.
  • I learned the basic chords of sexuality from the swimsuit issue.
  • The kind of story that’s just philosophical possibilities extruding from some kind of soul-machine, filmed from every angle in uncomfortably high resolution, the possibilities still slimy from whatever it is that happened inside that big machine.
  • I feel like a discoloration on a sash showing where a merit badge has been ripped off.
  • Dog-paddling on dry land.
  • His voice was so deep it felt like a small ghost tumbling in my inner ear.
  • Money and used bandages feel the same.
  • Crystalline weeds of lesser churches grew at the base of the invisible cathedral; the most perfect of those crystal spears was dedicated to closely observing the natural laws of money.
  • The old fat bull lowed, his voice battered by five decades of grilled meat and light beer.
  • ​Liberty is a fuzzy idea, but it’s “pursuit of happiness” that’s the real weasel phrase.
  • The comprehension was ravenous, like locusts, sucking up knowledge and leaving behind despair.
  • ​Some people just have a special gland for lying; normals can die of dishonesty, but the elect possess a node that eats sin.​
  • I raised a herd of middle-class families, and I live by brokering their tax revenue to the authorities.
  • From the slight elevation of the off-ramp, the sprawling city looked like the work of either a distracted god or a very busy people.
  • The road was a ghost river, only to be traversed in special cladding, and only at certain speeds.
  • The screech of interplanar distortion isn’t a dealbreaker, a lot of people work closely with ghosts on an everyday basis.
  • There is a glitch in the coding of males, regarding the sentiment “if you don’t like it, then tough luck,” and its deployment in hyper-inappropriate contexts.
  • Bohemian entrepreneurs invaded, wearing the disparate lifestyles of the past 50 years all at once like a costume.
  • I was still in the habit of treating money like rain, like an act of god that I could neither cause nor prevent, but felt I could propitiate with right thinking.

malevich

  • The lake sulks on the edge of the city, their relationship soured in the rich ways only available to those trapped together.
  • The sky looked like it had been mopped with dirty water, its only life a reflected creamsicle prairie of light pollution.
  • ​The fruit trees were turned inside out, their branches pulled earthward, deformed by their own productivity.​
  • On W 45th street, there is an art gallery exhibiting pictures of a fictional serial killer; on E 45th Street there’s a regular, single-serving, non-fictional murder.
  • The “business” of business school had started as a euphemism for the getting of money, but like many a load-bearing euphemism, heat and time had dappled the word with unexpected meanings and ritual.
  • We didn’t have a real priest to consecrate the host, so we put two AA batteries into a bowl of tortilla chips and sprayed holy water on the compound.
  • Some nostalgia is actually misfiled disappointment about how the present turned out.
  • One of those one dudes so old that they start to smell faintly of fried chicken.
  • We started out doomed; the trial was more just like double-checking that fate said what it said.
  • Beatles lyrics are mostly agreeable but not actually psychodynamic laws.
  • Honest self-dealing left in the fridge overnight to set into depression.
  • Trash on fire smells better than trash not on fire.
  • I will cluck my tongue so hard it’ll stop your heart, mister.
  • The economics of being a ghost are not so different from those of the living.
  • The old man died serenely in his rocking chair but not before thinking to himself “Thank God I abandoned my pursuit of sexual alchemy.”
  • His #1 concern, both as a baseball ghost and a regular ghost, was that this contract for reincarnation would just lead to more dying.
  • You can’t build a world around yourself, although you are allowed to try.
  • Try to rip pages out of your life like a notebook and you just wind up hurting yourself.
  • Fate is wrong at least half the time.​
  • The spirits that animate Meaning are kind enough to know when they need to punch someone in the dick.
  • Most things happens without intent.
  • Selfhood–beyond the literal temporal constraints of the particles of a brain–is a very perishable thing.
  • His teeth, more than regular teeth, looked like the crude wind instrument/weapon made of bones that they were.
  • She felt like cold water on a wound.
  • At first she seemed like one of those girls who was forever on the verge of tears; I later learned that there was something wrong with my eyes.
  • I didn’t say what the cup was going to overflow with.​
  • Bottom-shelf cabinetry has a habit of expressing the unsettled desperation of the lives that people with bottom-shelf cabinetry tend to have.
  • Ignore most problems and they go away; this extends to the problem of being alive.
  • Jury duty smells like cheap soap and feels like stale obligation
  • No one here is debating the artistic potential inherent in demolition derby; the issue has always been one of liability.​
  • Cars are drugs that you sit inside, instilling feelings of immortality while often providing the exact opposite.
  • The yaw between calmly letting the world go to shit and furtively speeding up that process.
  • I don’t think I’m asking all that much when I suggest that you annihilate the past and future.
  • ​Midsize Carnivore #1’s story​ has been lost to history, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Midsize Carnivore #2.
  • Stories are a good way of swapping time-acreage for postcard images of different lives, more satisfying and less annoyingly real.
  • ​The final version of his will stipulated a complex solar-powered harness that would keep his interred corpse rotating at a rate of one revolution every 24 hours.
  • The opposite of resurrection.
  • ​What are you supposed to wear when you set out to rob people as an act of moral theater?​
  • Houseplants are the sole and mute witnesses to some of the saddest shit imaginable.
  • Even the fruit in the endowed fruit bowl looked corporate and sullen.
  • Can’t two shitty, opposite things exist and have friction, without our living in the friction?
  • I don’t want to be your dog, I want to be any dog.
  • My resentments are more resilient than the shit they make space shuttles out of.
  • Clutching a bodega coffee, draped in the kind of suit they sell buy-one-get-one, earnestly deaf to a lot of life’s shittier nuances.
  • It is the nature of adult friendships to be slightly relieved when you are done hanging out with someone.
  • Injustice seemed more palatable before the invention of video cameras.
  • Sometimes I wonder which is more troublesome: the stuff between our ears, or all the other stuff.
  • Human decency is a cyclical trend, like hairstyles or polygamy
  • Catalog the insecurities, assign them in thematic bunchings to people around you, use these people as septic tanks for your fears.
  • I spend most of my time stroking my possessions to make sure they’re real.
  • I have processed all outstanding emotions and am prepared to briefly focus on imaginary people’s interior lives.
  • Home is a computer screen, mostly.
  • Sometimes I detest meaning.
  • I mistook a pile of irregular cardboard shards for a puzzle.
  • The great lie of detective fiction is that nearly every crime wants to be solved.
  • His everything felt like it had been left outside all night–clammy, its atoms drunk on sleep.
  • The fates transformed me into a garbage can to teach me some lesson but mostly life is the same.
  • I painted the word MESSINESS on my mind’s equivalent of a murder wall to help me remember.
  • Grotesque impatience is a hobby of mine.
  • There are truths that go beyond difficulty into a kind of active avoidance of comprehension; they not only bounce off your eyes but use them for a kick-turn.
  • Emotions have half-lives, and anybody who tells you otherwise is probably trouble.
  • Terry looked like a carnie, which is to say he gave the impression of being made entirely of neck muscles.
  • As a species, one of our main hobbies is lying to another, sometimes for profit, sometimes just to pass the time.
  • A penis never develops a thick skin, no matter how much you use it.
  • Dust to dust, but in that middle part we are also still dust.
  • The sound of an entire civilization staring at itself in the mirror, checking its hair, cringing at its own recorded voice.
  • Drag my soul kicking and screaming away from the well it likes to stare down.
  • In lieu of health insurance, employees will be provided with drugs that induce a mild sensation of immortality.
  • The absence of resistance is a poison.
  • Trust has to be watered and fed more than you think.

arthur

re: a hero named Homer and the devil named Burns

In trying to stabilize the landfill, they fought erosion by planting native grasses on top and then brought in goats to eat back invasive species that were crowding out the native grasses. Coyotes and wild dogs started killing the goats, so they had to bring in Great Pyrenees sheep dogs to guard the livestock.

Did a Q&A with scholar/filmmaker/author Christine Walley about her Exit Zero projects over at the dayjob.

These are the wheels of the world b/w PSA

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I’ve been meaning to post something on here about an impending geospatial lifechange for days on end; I even wrote myself a note about it. I think you can tell from the general combat readiness of this blog that I’m really medically on top of my shit as far as updating regularly. But I’m gonna give myself a free pass because I did write something that pretty much gets everything down on horseless paper for ye. It’s over at Belt, my new employer. Here’s a snippet.

I also didn’t know that there are thousands of Clevelands across America and around the globe, little galaxies half-finished and half-undone, the Rust Belt of the world. We rushed to build up these places, and rushed just as fast to empty them out. Every single one of these places has stories and songs. But I didn’t know any of that. My idea of Cleveland was an blank spot, surrounded by a desert of tract houses, SUVs that never got dirty, and a lifetime of joyless commercial pilgrimages to malls and big box stores.

So yeah, that pretty much covers it. If you have something to say about a Rust Belt–of the map, of the soul, of anything, I want you to write about it for me.

some other good and valid reason for courting death

CLAUDE PARTRIDGE

Worked like a tiny digital ox on this. Let me holler at you. Repurposed from my other alpenhut:

The latest issue of The Classical Magazine is nominally The Books Issue, but our writers experienced a bit of that good old American Mission Creep. So you’ll find thoughts about magazine journalism, punk rock, philosophy, occult bike zines, three pieces of fiction (one of which brings together Dwayne Schintzius and Moby-Dick, at last), and more straight-ahead essays on the sports books that moved our contributors, from a classic portrait of gritty ’70s football, to literary novels about soccer managers that strive to reconcile the personal with the ideological. The common thread through it all is, as always, sporps.

We have a great cast of contributors, some Classical vets and some new bylines. The crew this time out is Paul Flannery, Alex Belth, Holly M. Wendt, Nathan Huffstutter, Damon Agnos, Meredith Craig de Pietro, Inman Majors, Bryan Joiner, Chris Collision, and Tobias Carroll.

They’re tackling North Dallas Forty the novel, the making of “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?,” doomed love and hockey, Harry Crews, The Pogues, “Waltzing Matilda,” Maurice Clarett, Robert Swift, Matt Bush, John Updike, and more. Do not take my word for the quality of this issue. Buy many copies and then make an informed decision yourself.

As always, you can grab our magazine in single servings or subscriptions via our slick iOS app or our also-slick webstore for those who prefer to keep the ghost of Steve Jobs out of their isht. Sorry Steve! It’s all love!