The Shauny Chronicles

To make up for the lack of content in the past twenty-four hours, what with birthday celebrations and concomitant activities, I have compiled a number of strange things that I wrote circa 2002 — on Shauny’s grand blog.

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From what I understand from a solid source, the Melbourne Mad Hatters Recruiting Agency (the logo of which features a giant glove grabbing a billfold out of a backwards top hat) may just cater to your needs. For one thing, every recruiting agent that the Mad Hatters employ demands that the applicant not only pet a white rabbit (an animal who, because of a past experience, is fond of biting the hands of applicants who are wearing a watch that is wound five minutes slow or more) but also participate in an interview process that involves the sipping of tea and behavior that is considerably out-of-line in a staid corporate environment.

The Mad Hatters specialize in particularly vibrant or crazed souls. If a humorless applicant signs up with them, the applicant is generally subjected to cruel ridicule, asked to impersonate a Kimono dragon, or assigned tasks of an increasingly outre nature. Those that walk the fine line between normal and crazed have less of a risk (but still a considerable one) than the peripatetic accountant. But, ideally, the boisterous vociferator or the closet anarchist is welcome with the Mad Hatters. For corporations requiring the last nut in the Planters jar to run loose in a jungle of cubicles go to the Mad Hatters first. If a corporate position of unusual duties and obligations cannot be found, then there’s always the street performer route. The Mad Hatters also perform complimentary surgical procedures on anyone who aspires to spend the rest of their days touring with a circus freakshow.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the Mad Hatters (who have been in business since around 1886 over roughly four continents, but are based in Melbourne), the midgets, Siamese Twins, bearded ladies and other souls tittered at by those who pay to enter a tent and be astounded would be considerably less populous than those which continue to work today.

In fact, in an early draft of the Alfred Hitchcock film “Saboteur,” Dorothy Parker attempted to include a reference to the Melbourne Mad Hatters. Unfortunately, since a war was on in Europe, Parker’s meticulous research into the connection between the Mad Hatters and the circus freaks had to be excised. We still get some sense of the connection in the film when the performers look at Robert Cummings with considerable suspicion. The line that was deleted (and, alas, no footage exists of what was cut) was “Are you from the Mad Hatters?” This dialogue would have cleared up what is already a confusing though fascinating scene. But the mystery of the Mad Hatters remains.

* * *

“Does anyone read the entries?”

The answer to this question, a notion constantly within a blogger’s mind, involves considering several facets. First off, it’s worth tallying that instant feedback to a personal piece of writing, discounting any feverish dissemination of a journal during the Victorian age and a quick rejoining epistle shot with dementia by a writer’s potentially psychotic peers, is only a recently technological development. Also, as Marybeth has noted, more often than not, a reader is either intimidated or altogether perplexed by whether or not s/he should reply.

In some cases, a reader replies when s/he often shouldn’t or, more often than not, to alleviate boredom. This is not necessarily an exclusive condition of a reader’s mind.

In still other cases, a comment is fired off in an effort to contribute to an impromptu discussion or to cheer up the blogger or the idea expressed.

In the case of this particular comment herein, the purpose is to inform one Shauny that yes, indeed, her blog is being read and yes, indeed, in one sense or another, the reader is weighing words in his/her mind. So please do not fret. Participation within a comment thread often involves the flimsiest and ridiculous of pretexts.

* * *

There’s a new kind of social contract with the blog. It’s considerably more dangerous than the already troublesome relationship between author and reader, in which reader demands new book pronto you son of a bitch, little realizing that author needs time to not only deliberate and hone up the tome but find a tenable way to publish the damned thing (i.e., can author logistically make next month’s rent? is this the same old hash?).

Now thanks to the Internet, the petty bleats of readers demanding instant gratification have sealed this Hobson’s choice. Update a lot and you’re damned. Update too little and you’re condemned. Diverge from the ha ha funny or the inline graphic and actually (aghast!) contemplate and you’re suddenly some Minnesota housewife’s number one fan, with the duct tape thoroughly constricted around your throat via fractious e-mails.

It’s a neverending circle, this little contract. And it’s probably one of many reasons my own hits are so sporadic. But if I was concerned about popularity, I’d lay off the political diatribes, attend every blogging social gathering with a hidden agenda and somehow find my way into an A-lister’s pants, presumably the online way of marrying into money.

Who gives a damn about the readers? Write when you goddam want to and about what you goddam want to. If your readers can’t understand that the hyperelectronic bypass is a hell of an advantage compared to the ritualistic wait for a letter or a magazine in the post, particularly when one considers the immediate contact with the author, then it is their loss.

* * *

No, the blogs of the future will involve lengthy clips of people standing in front of a camera, talking about “how cool Ron was on Saturday night” while simultaneously performing a striptease, with frequent clips of nudity involved and occasional obscene gestures.

* * *

Four day Easter weekend? You’ve got to be shitting me. We Americans get ignobly poked in the posterior with a heartles middle manager’s cudgel when it comes to time off. For my own part, I had to deduct tomorrow off from my own vacation time for a three-day mass exodus to Nevada with friends, where the imbibing of beverages, spins of the roulette wheel and the wafts of first and second-hand smoke would somehow equate to a defiance of Judeo-Christian celebrations over some bearded guy pulling a Houdini from the grave. A specious plan, at best, but that never prevented anyone from trying.

Of course, it still doesn’t address the problem. In nearly every other industrialized nation, a worker is prone to getting something like 20 days (if not a third of the year) off annually. Meanwhile, we jaded Americans must settle for 10 days because someone who laid down the rules decided that our entire lives were work-based. Is it any wonder why some of us Americans became so cynical?

The only guaranteed vacation that an American has is when he willingly gets himself fired or is somehow extricated after the words, “Please call security” are spoken into a speakerphone. In these cases, there is usually some kind of severance pay, which means two weeks of boozing it up and wild spending sprees. Of course, this method doesn’t exactly ensure any kind of return to employment. But if one is to become ensnared within this ritualistic act three times a year, it’s easily equal to about six weeks of work, a fair bargain compared to the lack of vacation time we normally encounter.

* * *

The inclusion of the song in Shrek didn’t help matters. “I’m a Believer,” much like another Diamond song thrown away to UB40 known in modern vernacular as “Red Red Wine,” now resides just outside the edge of the corpus callosum of nearly every person born since 1947. The song has not only aged well, but it has been utilized for commercials and has hit more Muzak circuits (perhaps unfairly) than Ohio Express’s “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” a song that came one year later and was used in a Monty Python sketch.

“I’m a Believer,” amongst many other songs is a testament to one tenable reality: Neil Diamond is a magnificent songwriter, but inevitably people forget his original versions. “I’m a Believer” is remembered as a song written by the Monkees. Urge Overkill gets hitched to “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.” And of course, there is the UB40 problem.

It doesn’t help matters for Diamond much when he sings. He has a silly angst-ridden voice which, while laudable in some kitschy capacity, is rendered positively ridiculous through such covers as his version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Thus, the quandary. Diamond is somehow pinned down as a regular on the Vegas-Reno casinos when the songs he writes are considerably more than that. Someone save the man from his predicament before it’s too late.

* * *

One advantage of naming a vehicle “Manuel,” particularly if the car is a stickshift, is that, if you apply an embossed or machine printed appellation somewhere around the dashboard, then people may think that the car manufacturer deliberately misspelled the word “manual” when they were simply trying to inform a new driver that the car in question has a manual transmission.

Of course, the big question that any astute passenger will ask is: Why is the car advertising the stick? Shauna’s clutch regularly goes out. There are only four gears and only two or three of those work, giving the car a top speed close to 34mph. What possible reason did the car company have for putting this notice, which glaringly illuminates the effort of a driver, on the dashboard? And why on earth did they bother to mess up the spelling?

The brilliant thing is that the passenger will in most cases be too polite to mention these angry and maddening internal thoughts to you.

So you have picked not only an admirable name with vestigial ties to the great John Cleese (and Andrew Sachs, the underrated actor who played Manuel), but one that will puzzle your passengers ad infinitum.

* * *

The problem with my own high school dreams is that I had more of them as an adolescent. For whatever reason, there were a few English teachers that turned me on as an impressionable youth. The dreams, which came from a fifteen year-old kid contending with both a developing imagination and a randiness rivaled only by a horny-as-hell squadron of virile soldiers returning from a war, involved teachers reading to me, seducing me and then allowing me to recreate the form of the book, using their legs and arms as metaphorical “pages” to turn over, in the bedroom. I would be disciplined by these older women, who were somehow more sinuous within my dirty mind, if I hadn’t read particular authors. For whatever reason, the book was the ultimate sexual high and the soiled sheets of many a wet dream contributed to furtive runs to the washer and dryer in the early morning, attempting to cover up dissemination (no pun intended) that I found I could control more effectively through quotidian mastrubation.

As a result, years later, when I saw the human body used as a book in Peter Greenaway’s Pillow Book, the film made a good deal of sense to me, more so than my friends, who looked at my admiration and immediate understanding as their own personal answer to a less rapacious but ultimately sick-minded de Sade.

Today, I am still turned on by brainy and playful women. But while my adolescent dreams were limited to the classroom and the bedroom, this newfound educator and I are gloriously free to roam the earth. And the tie-in between books and sex has possibly become considerably more intense now that I read and write more frequently than I did back in those days.

And why does this comment read like a really bad epistle sent into Penthouse Letters?

* * *

I’ve had a recurring dream lately that has essentially involved being smothered by breasts. Sure, you could interpret this as the typical quotidian fantasies of a heterosexual man who particularly admires that remarkable pair of soft and sinuous organs. But here’s the thing: the dream motif has been accompanied by a random lady asking me very politely if they can smother me with their breasts. And this always seems to happen first. Sometimes, there are options, as in, “Sir, would you care for one boob in your face or two?” and sometimes, money is somehow involved (“Mr. Champion, the meter is running.”).

The thing I don’t understand about these recurring dreams is how some remarkable lady with breasts is prepared to smother me no matter what the environment or nature of the dream. Just last week, as I found myself dreaming about storming the beaches of Normandy (the Nazis, strangely enough, were replaced by vicious accountants firing off fountain pens at my direction instead of bullets), as I was about to capture one of these Nazis/moneymen, one of them suddenly turned into a lady. Suddenly, this remarkably sized, newly appearing lady told me, “You’re going to need a Schedule 44D,” and then wouldn’t you know it — my head was once again joyously smothered between breasts with complete complaisance.

Of course, this had nothing to do with Normandy or Nazis (unless you count those Ilsa movies). But these recurring dreams have been happening for about two or three weeks. And I’m feverishly contemplating why the breasts feel the need to make these regular appearances, along with some prefatory sentence. Not that I mind, of course. I’m just wondering if I’m having a premature seven year itch or this is my mind’s way of saying, “Heya! Ed! Bedroom tango time!” If my brain is concentrated upon these two salient organs of desire, then I’m wondering whether I need to have more fun during my Friday and Saturday nights or I simply need to find the largest mammary gland (Woody Allen size?) possible. That essentially means smothering my face into one of the bovine’s six breasts. And that’s a hard way to find a solution to this for an urban dweller like me.

* * *

Okay, this is where you call in the Sanity Police, the gendarmes of childhood madness, the enforcers of juvenile escape. Basically, I had this tendency to create fictitious maps at an early age. What I used to do was lay out a whole town on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Bird’s eye Thomas Bros. view with clover leaves, winding roads and of course the rectilinear streets of downtown. Then I’d get a ream of paper and draw my car’s journey from the perspective of the windshield of this town. I’d label each sheet sequentially and then follow the car’s journey on the map. These pictures were pretty straightforward and crude. I was never much of a drawer, but all of this stuff was in my head and the minimalist stuff that I could reproduce was filled in by what I saw within my noggin.

But where it got pretty disturbing was in the signs I devised. Like any imaginative person, I too was fascinated by the SLIPPERY WHEN WET sign. But here in California, the sign had two absolutely identical curlicues that trailed from the car. This led me to believe that somehow the car, should it slip, would skid in precisely the pattern dictated the sign. After all, since some government official had put the sign up, my five year old head is thinking that they know the precise trajectory of the car’s skid, should the road ever become wet and, thus, slippery.

In mulling this dilemma over, I eventually came to the conclusion that the government simply wasn’t doing its job properly. Because it didn’t account for every potential disaster. But in the towns that I created on paper, I considered nearly every warning, while taking into account that the visual information on the signs that needed to be conveyed had to follow the certain house style set by the SLIPPERY WHEN WET sign.

So what you had for a pothole in the road was a sign very much like the “SLIPPERY WHEN WET” sign, complete with the car jumping into the air, labeled “BUMPY WHEN HOLED.” I even created signs that predicted the car mowing down a random pedestrian trying to cross the street. If I recall, it was something like “BLOODY WHEN CROSSED.”

I was a terrible little boy.

* * *

Let me tell you a thing or two about e-mail, concentrating at length upon its rsults upon the human psyche, and singling out strange illnesses that involves spontaneously combusting heads (a veritable Cronenberg compost of nothing above the neck and brainmatter, natch!), three villainous itises (itii?) that insufferably reside beneath the deepest recesses of the three nails (isn’t 15% always the hardest?) that you think about the least, and how the specific beeps of certain e-mail clients have a way of triggering epileptic seizures if someone is confused enough to mistake the pleasant Eudora beep for the harsh simpering words of Mary Hart (or, considerably worse, Ann Coulter, a bona-fide maven who will make any sensible person’s brain hurt).

First off, with e-mail, there is lots of it. Thousands of e-mails are fired off into mail servers every minute. Several hundred of these will bounce, frenetically bumping into the gridlock of mistyped addresses or faux spam addresses that spam victims, angered and exhausted by the “PAY $2.99 A MINUTE FOR A HOT FAT FUCK WITH A MARSUPIAL! CLICK HERE!” epistles, perplexed that they of all people would be singled out in such a manner and rejoining appropriately. But most of these e-mails will meet their intended addresses.

This is where the finer struggle of getting your recepient to read the damned thing comes into play or, for that matter, to respond to it. If, like me, you have a tendency to write longass e-mails and leave longass comments on blogs based in Canberra, then it’s quite likely you will receive no response from your intended suitor. Indeed, this often forces those three daemons to come from beneath the fingernails, waltz with the bamboo shoots that affix themselves into the mail daemon, flipflop mental Post-It notes written in Unix and other strange commands that involve a prompt and then finally effectuate the brain into making a firm disease-ridden resolve.

In Shauny’s case, the unfortunate aftermath is mailache. But it could be considerably worse. You could be quitting smoking right now. You could be lying in a ditch, doomed to a lifetime of transcribing Pantera lyrics from the one tape you have managed to salvage from your former abode and that you now have playing on your Walkman.

But since Shauny is above rebuke in expressing her feelings here, since her postings give us all such joy, I would gauge her current status on the same level as the current Kashmir crisis.

There are only one of two solutions. Send in Jimmy Carter to negotiate between the two sides or send loving e-mails to our dearest Shauny. The choice is yours.

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